The UFC has added two major fights to its final pay-per-view event of 2023.
English lightweight Paddy Pimblett (20-3) will appear for the first time this year alongside former interim champion and fan favorite Tony Ferguson (25-9). In addition, top 10 welterweights Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson (17-6-1) and Shavkat Rakhmonov (17-0) have agreed to a duel.
UFC President Dana White announced the fights on Friday evening. They take place on December 16th at UFC 296 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
The 28-year-old Pimblett is 4-0 in the UFC, although many observers felt he should have lost his last fight against Jared Gordon last December. Pimblett, who fought in Liverpool, was sidelined all year due to an ankle injury sustained during that fight.
Pimblett will have a huge chance against Ferguson, who is considered one of the best lightweights of the last decade despite a six-fight losing streak. In 2020, Ferguson was scheduled to challenge Khabib Nurmagomedov for the undisputed lightweight championship. The fight was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic and Ferguson subsequently lost to Justin Gaethje. He hasn’t recovered since.
Thompson is knocking on the door to a title shot following his victory over Kevin Holland earlier this year. He is currently ranked 7th in the division and is 3-2 in his last five games.
Rakhmonov was long considered an underdog in the division. The Uzbekist is 5-0 in the UFC with five finishes. In fact, he has earned finishes in all 17 of his professional fights and is ranked No. 6 in the UFC.
A welterweight title fight between Leon Edwards and Colby Covington is scheduled to headline the UFC 296 event.