Leon Edwards is finally back, and his next opponent is a rising star who has taken the MMA world by storm.
The UFC has booked Edwards versus Khamzat Chimaev on Dec. 19, sources said. The fight will serve as the main event of the final UFC card of 2020 and will be a welterweight bout.
The booking puts an end to a saga between Edwards and the UFC that reached a boiling point Thursday, when the UFC removed Edwards from the official rankings after he turned down his fourth fight since July.
Edwards (18-3) has won his last eight in a row, but he hasn't fought since July 2019. He was scheduled to fight Tyron Woodley on March 21 in London, but that fight was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The UFC then tried to book Edwards in a short-notice title fight against welterweight champion Kamaru Usman on July 11, but Edwards, sources said, turned it down because he felt like he didn't have enough time to train. He subsequently turned down fights against Colby Covington and Geoff Neal, sources said, and then Chimaev, which led to the UFC removing Edwards from its rankings.
However, sources said, both sides revisited resurrecting the Edwards-Chimaev fight on Friday, and a deal was finally reached.
Chimaev (9-0) is 3-0 in the UFC, but Edwards will be his first ranked opponent. He most recently knocked out Gerald Meerschaert in 17 seconds last month.
The event is expected to take place at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas.