The middle event on next month’s UFC Fight Island will be headlined by Michael Chiesa’s welterweight clash against Neil Magny, after Khamzat Chimaev was forced to withdraw from his bout having suffered complications from contracting Covid-19.
The breakthrough star of 2020, Chimaev was initially to headline the January 20 Fight Night in the capital against Leon Edwards, in a hotly anticipated match-up. However, news broke on Tuesday that the Chechen-born fighter was forced to pull out, although no official reason was given.
Chimaev’s manager, Ali Abdelaziz, since said in a statement, released initially to ESPN: “Khamzat had coronavirus and when he went back to gym, his lungs did not recover 100 per cent. He needs time for his lungs to recover, and right now it’s about taking that necessary time.”
It marks the second time Covid-19 has derailed the bout. Edwards and Chimaev were to originally meet this month in Las Vegas, but the Englishman, the division’s No 3-ranked challenger, had to withdraw after testing positive for Covid.
Speaking to reporter “The Schmo” on Thursday, UFC president Dana White said the fight would be pushed back to another date, which has yet to be determined.
“The doctor told him when he went back to the gym - I guess he was having problems with his lungs, whatever that was - so they told him to take some more time off and not start training until early January,” White said. “We’re going to push that fight back.”
White then confirmed that the previously scheduled co-main event would be promoted to the main. Chiesa, whose professional record stands at 17-4, comes into the encounter on a three-fight win streak having moved up to welterweight from lightweight two years ago. However, he has not fought since his January 25 success against Rafael dos Anjos.
Meanwhile, Magny (24-7) also enjoys three victories on the bounce, all of which came in 2020. He last fought Robbie Lawler, earning a unanimous decision in Las Vegas in August.
The three-event Fight Island series begins on January 16 with the headliner between Max Holloway and Calvin Kattar, and concludes eight days later with UFC 257. Conor McGregor's rematch with Dustin Poirier tops the bill.