UFC has added a pair of marquee fights to its final pay-per-view event of 2023.
English lightweight Paddy Pimblett (20-3) will make his first appearance of the year opposite former interim champion and fan favorite Tony Ferguson (25-9). Additionally, top 10 welterweights Stephen "Wonderboy" Thompson (17-6-1) and Shavkat Rakhmonov (17-0) have agreed to square off.
UFC president Dana White announced the bouts Friday night. They will take place at UFC 296 on Dec. 16 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
Pimblett, 28, is 4-0 in the UFC, although many observers felt he should have lost his most recent fight against Jared Gordon last December. Fighting out of Liverpool, Pimblett has been out all year due to an ankle injury he suffered during that fight.
Pimblett will have a massive opportunity against Ferguson, who is regarded as one of the best lightweights of the last decade despite a six-fight skid. In 2020, Ferguson was scheduled to challenge Khabib Nurmagomedov for the undisputed lightweight championship. The fight was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Ferguson went on to lose to Justin Gaethje. He hasn't recovered since.
Thompson is knocking on the door of a title shot following a victory over Kevin Holland earlier this year. He is currently ranked No. 7 in the division and is 3-2 in his past five.
Rakhmonov has long been considered an underdog in the division despite his record. The Uzbekistani is 5-0 in the UFC with five finishes. He has actually recorded finishes in all 17 of his professional bouts and is ranked No. 6 in the UFC.