Edwards (20-3 MMA, 12-2 UFC) will attempt to make the second defense of his welterweight title reign when he puts gold on the line against Covington (17-3 MMA, 12-3 UFC) in the UFC 296 headliner.
The event takes place Dec. 16 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas and airs on pay-per-view following prelims expected on ESPN and ESPN+.
UFC president Dana White announced the championship bouts on social media Wednesday.
🚨 HUGE FIGHT NEWS 🚨
— UFC (@ufc) September 21, 2023
Edwards, No. 1 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMA Junkie welterweight rankings, will face an opponent other than Kamaru Usman for the first time in more than two years. He captured the strap in August 2022 with a stunning come-from-behind knockout of Usman at UFC 278, then would go on to take a majority decision in the rubber match between the two at UFC 286 in March.
The 31-year-old originally stated he thought No. 4-ranked Covington was an unworthy contender after fighting just once in the past two years, but ultimately he agreed to the matchup.
Covington, 35, will attempt to make good on his third chance at a UFC belt after he went 0-2 against Usman in their series. “Chaos” is 2-2 in his past four fights dating back to December 2019, with the losses coming to Usman and his wins being a fifth-round injury TKO of Tyron Woodley and a unanimous decision over Jorge Masvidal in his most recent bout at UFC 272 in March 2022.
The fight between Pantoja and Royval is a rematch of an August 2021 non-title bout that saw the former defeat the latter by second-round submission. Pantoja defeated Brandon Moreno for the title at UFC 290 in July. The win was his fourth in a row. Royval rides a three-fight winning streak into UFC 296, including a knockout win over Matheus Nicolau in April.
The latest UFC 296 lineup now includes:
Champion Leon Edwards vs. Colby Covington – for welterweight title
Champion Alexandre Pantoja vs. Brandon Royval – for flyweight title
For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC 296.