Islam Makhachev calls for welterweight title bout with champion Leon Edwards in Abu Dhabi

Edwards, who defeated Kamaru Usman in their trilogy bout early on Sunday, appeared open to an October clash at UFC 294 at Etihad Arena

Leon Edwards celebrates after defending his world welterweight title against Kamaru Usman at UFC 286 in London, on March 18, 2023. Reuters
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Islam Makhachev is eyeing champ-champ status in Abu Dhabi later this year after calling out welterweight belt-holder Leon Edwards on Sunday.

The lightweight champion, who captured the 155-lbs crown in the capital last October, made clear his desire to take on Edwards immediately following the latter’s successful welterweight title defence against Kamaru Usman at UFC 286 in London.

The UFC announced on Thursday that it will return to Abu Dhabi on October 21, with UFC 294 at Etihad Arena.

“I want Leon next” Makhachev tweeted early on Sunday. “October in Abu Dhabi.”

Edwards, who defeated Usman last August by a sensational knockout to claim the welterweight title, came through their trilogy clash – Usman won their first encounter, in 2015 – at O2 Arena via a majority decision.

It lifted Edwards’ unbeaten run to 12, while Makhachev rides a 12 fight win-streak after successfully defending his belt last month against featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski.

Speaking to BT Sport after the Usman triumph, Edwards suggested he would be interested with a fight with lightweight counterpart Makhachev, saying: “All comers are welcome.

“Pay me right and I will show up. That’s my mentality. If you pay me well, I will show up and anybody can get it.”

However, UFC president Dana White appeared to pour cold water on a potential Makhachev-Edwards bout at UFC 294. At the post-fight media briefing, White said former title challenger Colby Covington was next in line for a shot at welterweight gold.

The American, the No 2-ranked contender at 170lbs, was in London on Friday to make weight as a back-up to Edwards-Usman.

“Colby’s next,” White said. “We’re going back to Abu Dhabi on October 21, but it definitely won’t be Leon and [Makhachev].”

Meanwhile, White said also that he expects Khamzat Chimaev to return to the octagon in October, although he did not confirm whether that would fall in Abu Dhabi.

Chimaev, who will compete next at middleweight, has not fought since his first-round submission win against Kevin Holland in Las Vegas in September. Four of the Chechen-born athlete’s seven UFC appearances have taken place in Abu Dhabi, including his debut in July 2020. Chimaev, 28, is 12-0 as a professional.

Updated: March 19, 2023, 10:57 AM