Edwards vs. Covington, Pantoja vs. Royval Set for UFC 296 in December

Leon Edwards UFC
Leon Edwards, UFC 286 ceremonial weigh-in Credit: Jamie Theodosi/Cageside Press

The UFC’s final Pay-Per-View of 2023, UFC 296, is expected to pack an impressive one-two punch.

On Wednesday, UFC President and CEO Dana White announced that the highly anticipated welterweight title fight between Leon Edwards (21-3, 1NC) and Colby Covington (17-3) will serve as the card’s main event. In addition, Alexandre Pantoja (26-5), the promotion’s newly crowned flyweight champ, will make his first title defense in the night’s co-main event when he takes on Brandon Royval (15-6).

Edwards captured the UFC’s welterweight title in August of 2022, shocking Kamaru Usman (and everyone watching) with a fifth round head kick KO in a fight the British star had been losing to that point. He put on a more balanced performance at UFC 286 this past March, winning a decision in the rubber match of the pair’s trilogy.

Covington, a former interim champ, has twice fought for UFC gold, coming up short to Kamaru Usman on both occasions.

Alexandre Pantoja, meanwhile, defeated Mexico’s Brandon Moreno earlier this summer to win gold. He gets Royval while “Raw Dawg” rides a three-fight win streak.

Both Covington and Royval served as back-up fighters for recent title fights in their respective weight classes, and were expected to receive title shots. Still, the news has the UFC ending the year with a bang — and also appears to eliminate the possibility of Conor McGregor fighting in 2023.

While McGregor could conceivably join the UFC 296 card for his bout with Michael Chandler (or whoever else he might end up fighting), it’s hard to picture the biggest star in the sport playing second or even third fiddle, title fights or no.

UFC 296 takes place December 16, 2023 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. No other fights have been announced for the card as of yet.