The UFC visited London twice this year. The first event in March was a roaring success, and produced what Dana White called “the biggest Fight Night in UFC history”. Headlined by Tom Aspinall vs Alexander Volkov, the show acted as springboard for the peripheral British talent in the promotion, notably Liverpool’s Paddy Pimblett and Molly McCann. Full of finishes and action—every winning fighter on the card was given a performance bonus.
The UFC looked to lay further track for the hype-train by following it up quickly with another event in July. And speaking as someone who forked out thousands to attend—it was a disappointment. Boring fights, underwhelming gameplans, and a freak injury to top it all off. Although not without its entertaining moments, it failed to replicate the ballyhoo of its predecessor.
Despite the flop of their most recent attempt, the UFC have decided to continue their efforts in the UK. And with Leon Edwards crowned as welterweight champion, Dana White has promised a return to England in early 2023. Rumours have already begun that the rematch for that welterweight title will be held at a stadium in March on pay-per-view. Below are some possible matchups we could see on the card.
England deserves this. Leon deserves this 🏴🏆
Dana is 𝑷𝑼𝑴𝑷𝑬𝑫. We are 𝑷𝑼𝑴𝑷𝑬𝑫. @danawhite confirms the UFC will return to the UK in 2023 for a MEGA show… and @KChimaev will be on the card 😱#UFC280 | Saturday, 7PM | BT Sport Box Office pic.twitter.com/imfTORCS6z
— UFC on BT Sport (@btsportufc) October 21, 2022
Leon Edwards vs Kamaru Usman 3
While there are a few British fighters close to a shot in their respective weight classes, and a certain someone who can definitely draw the required crowd—Leon Edwards is the UK’s only champion. No one makes more sense to headline this show than the welterweight king.
Edwards dethroned long-reigning champion Kamaru Usman in August with a sensational head kick in the final round. He was behind for the majority of the fight and was just one minute away from losing by decision. The longevity of Usman’s run, coupled with how close their fight was, makes the rematch a near-certainty.
Arnold Allen vs Max Holloway
After losing all three fights in their trilogy, it seems unlikely Max Holloway will get another title shot as long as Alexander Volkanovski remains the champion at featherweight. This leaves him in a position as gatekeeper: a final test for any would-be contender. And what a difficult test he will be for Arnold Allen.
Alexander Volkanovski will be competing for the lightweight title around this time; an opportune scenario for the promotion to set up an interim title match in his absence. Allen could pip his fellow contenders to the shot as the UFC will want a big British fight to co-headline this potential pay-per-view—and with Tom Aspinall likely still recovering from his catastrophic knee injury—a bout between these two could slide to the top of this card.
Paddy Pimblett vs Tony Ferguson
Paddy Pimblett has become one of the UFC’s biggest stars since his debut in 2021. If the intention is to fill a stadium, then you can expect he will be part of the plans. Now three fights undefeated, Pimblett already has a booking against Jared Gordon in December at UFC 282. A win will have fans demanding he fight a ranked opponent. But if he loses, he will likely still play a role on this card.
Let’s assume for matchmaking sake that he gets past Gordon. Pimblett’s monumental impact may grant him some plot armour when it comes time to challenge for a ranking. And the easiest-ranked fight in the division is Tony Ferguson. Few ever reach the levels of absolutely-past-it we are seeing from El Cucoy without being removed from the promotion, but he remains listed as the fourteenth best at 155 pounds. Don’t be surprised if this fight is discussed regardless of the result in December.
Paddy The Baddy is back!
— UFC Europe (@UFCEurope) October 22, 2022
Tom Aspinall vs Curtis Blaydes 2
The headliners of the second London event of 2022 could be rematched if Tom Aspinall is in fighting shape again come March. The bout had huge implications in the muddied waters of the heavyweight title picture, and a firm conclusion may be necessary to provide clarity to the order of the queue for a shot at the championship.
The first bout between the two ended after only fifteen seconds when Aspinall tore his MCL and meniscus, and damaged his ACL. Unfortunately, the recovery time on such extensive injuries will likely take him well past March. Even if it can’t happen here, these two will meet at some point in the near future.
Muhammed Mokaev vs Alex Perez
Muhammed Mokaev will need to rapidly climb his way through the rankings if he is to fulfil his desire of beating Jon Jones’ long-held record of being the youngest UFC champion. He entered the top fifteen with his most recent win and hasn’t been short of callouts since. Alongside Matt Schnell and Brandon Royval, one target is fifth-ranked former title challenger Alex Perez.
Perez recently returned from a two-year layoff to be submitted by Alexandre Pantoja in the first round. If he intends to get back to winning ways and make a statement in the division, then taking out the most hyped prospect at flyweight might be a good way to do it. With two defeats in a row, Perez will likely be fighting downward in his next bout anyway. The UFC of late haven’t shied away from allowing fighters to make huge leaps up in competition if they think they can handle it. Mokaev has been vocal in his claims that he can.