Welterweight champion Leon Edwards is looking forward to a “dream come true” when UFC 286 visits London for the promotion’s first event of 2023 in the UK.
The 31-year-old captured the title in the US in August and is now preparing to defend it for the first time in his fourth professional appearance in the capital.
“It’s a proud moment for me and all the guys in the UK,” said Edwards. “If you asked any guys in a mixed martial arts gym what their ideal scenario would be, it would be headlining a hometown show and defending your belt. I will take it and run with it.”
Here’s what you need to know about the second ever UFC pay-per-view event in England, including the rest of the card, how to watch and how to be there.
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When is UFC 286?
UFC 286 will take place on March 18, 2023, ending a wait of almost eight months for UK fans of the promotion.
Edwards will have been almost seven months outside of the Octagon by then, so the fighter known as ‘Rocky’ will be itching to get back to action.
Where is UFC 286 being held?
The MMA blockbuster will be held at the 20,000-capacity O2 Arena, where the UFC has frequently held events over the years.
Last time out, in July 2022, the main event proved an unfortunate anti-climax as heavyweight Tom Aspinall was forced out of his bout with Curtis Blaydes in the first round after sustaining a serious knee injury.
UFC 286 schedule and times
Doors open at 5 p.m. local time for the fight, with the prelims starting at 8 p.m., the main card at 10 p.m. and ringwalks for the main event expected at around 11 p.m.
Date: Saturday, March 18
Start time: 3 p.m. ET | 8 p.m. GMT | 7 a.m. AEDT*
Main card: 5 p.m. ET | 10 p.m. GMT | 9 a.m. AEDT*
Main event: 6 p.m. ET | 11 p.m. GMT | 12 p.m. AEDT*
The exact time of the cards and main event ringwalks are subject to how long each previous bout takes.
*Event starts on Sunday, March 19 in Australia.
UFC 286 fight card: Full card for UFC London
UFC 286 main card
Leon Edwards vs Kamaru Usman — welterweight
Although it hasn’t been confirmed as the main event yet, the trilogy bout between home fighter Edwards and his rival, known as ‘The Nigerian Nightmare’, would be a worthy star attraction.
Edwards lost by unanimous decision to Usman in 2015 but knocked him out in the fifth round of their scrap in Salt Lake City last year to end his opponent’s six-fight, three-and-a-half-year reign as welterweight champion.
Justin Gaethje vs Rafael Fiziev – lightweight
Fiziev’s six-fight winning streak included impressive finishes against Rafael dos Anjos and Brad Riddell in his two most recent bouts, hastening his pursuit of a showdown with former interim champion Gaethje.
‘The Highlight’ has not fought since he suffered a first-round submission defeat to Charles Oliveira at UFC 274 last May.
Gunnar Nelson vs Daniel Rodriguez — welterweight
After a two-and-a-half-year break from action, Icelander Nelson beat Takashi Sato at the O2 Arena in his most recent fight last March.
Californian Rodriguez has appeared on each of the UFC’s past seven Las Vegas cards and was on a run of four wins before a submission defeat to Neil Magny in November.
Marvin Vettori vs Roman Dolidze — middleweight
Dolidze has entered the top 15 in the division after four straight wins following a unanimous decision defeat to Trevin Giles on his UFC debut in March 2021.
Multiple people with knowledge of the promotion’s plans confirmed to MMA Fighting that a fight between Vettori and Dolidze is being finalized for UFC 286, which takes place March 18 at the O2 Arena in London. UFC broadcast partner ESPN was first to report the agreed-upon matchup.
The Georgian is now targeting the fourth-ranked Vettori, who lost by decision to Robert Whittaker at UFC Paris in September, having also gone the distance in his win over Paulo Costa and defeat to Israel Adesanya in his previous two fights.
Jack Shore vs Makwan Amirkhani — featherweight
Welshman Shore’s perfect professional record from 16 bantamweight fights ended when he lost to Ricky Simon at UFC Long Island in July.
Iranian-born Finn Amirkhani has been a UFC fighter for more than eight years and beat Mike Grundy in London last March. The 34-year-old was stopped by Jonathan Pearce at the same venue four months later, giving him a fourth defeat in five fights.
A 13-fight UFC veteran, Amirkhani has struggled in recent years, logging just one win in his past five outings. Amirkhani most recently fought this past July at UFC London, where he lost via second-round TKO to Pearce. His UFC record sits at 7-6.
UFC 286 prelims
Sam Patterson vs Yanal Ashmoz — lightweight
Signed after impressing on Dana White’s Contender Series at the end of 2022, Briton Patterson has the chance to live up to his nickname of ‘The Future’ against fellow debutant Ashmoz.
The Israeli is unbeaten in six professional fights, most recently triumphing in the PFL Challenger Series 2022.
Nathaniel Wood vs Lerone Murphy — featherweight
Londoner Wood won on his featherweight debut at the O2 Arena in July 2022 with a decision victory against Charles Rosa, repeating that result when he faced Charles Jourdain at UFC Paris in September.
This battle of prospects will see Mancunian Murphy bid to protect his unbeaten record from four UFC fights, enhanced when he knocked out Amirkhani in Abu Dhabi in October.
Jai Herbert vs Ludovit Klein — lightweight
Former Cage Warriors champion Herbert — known as ‘The Black Country Banger’ — featured on both of the UFC’s London cards in 2022, and his defeat in the latter to Kyle Nelson was his first to go to decision and the first that could not have been described as highly entertaining.
Slovak Klein beat Mason Jones by decision on the same night to make it two successive wins since the 27-year-old returned to the lightweight division from featherweight.
Muhammad Mokaev vs Jafel Filho — flyweight
Hugely popular Mokaev will doubtless call for a title shot — or at least a fight with a top-15 opponent — if the 22-year-old with ambitions to become the UFC’s youngest champion beats Contender Series sensation Filho.
Brazilian Filho has 14 wins from 16 fights, 11 of which have come early, and will be making his official UFC debut.
UFC 286 early prelims
Jake Hadley vs Malcolm Gordon — flyweight
British newcomer Hadley recovered from a defeat against Allan Nascimento to beat Carlos Candelario in November.
The 26-year-old former champion with South African promotion Extreme Fighting Championship faces Mokaev’s most recent victim in Gordon, a Canadian whose successive wins before that defeat gives him a record of two victories from five UFC fights.
Joanne Wood vs Luana Carolina — flyweight
Scottish veteran and former kickboxing world champion Wood is seeking to end a run of three straight defeats when she meets ‘Dread’ Carolina, a Brazilian with eight wins from 11 professional bouts.
One of those defeats came in Carolina’s last fight, when Molly McCann’s spinning back elbow ended her contest at the O2 in March 2022.
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Christian Duncan vs Dusko Todorovic — middleweight
UFC debutant Duncan, from Scotland, had never lost before a Contender Series defeat in 2021, but he put that right by emerging from the series last year, beating Charlie Campbell to secure his spot.
His first opponent is durable Serbian Todorovic, who has fought in Dubai and Las Vegas on his way to accumulating three wins and three defeats in his UFC career to date.
Juliana Miller vs Veronica Macedo — flyweight
The winner of reality show The Ultimate Fighter 30, Miller appears to have enticed Macedo out of a three-year retirement for her first UFC challenge.
Venezuelan Macedo, 27, may be motivated by trying to improve on her UFC career of one win in five fights.
How to watch Leon Edwards vs Kamaru Usman at UFC 286
The fight is on ESPN+ PPV in the US, while in the UK it’s on BT Sport.
DAZN will broadcast in Germany, Austria and Italy, and the UFC Fight Pass will also offer coverage.
How to buy tickets for UFC 286 at the O2 Arena London
Tickets went on sale in late January and are available by visiting the official UFC event page.
The lowest reported ticket prices at the time were between £344.95 (around $427) and £481.80 ($597), with the highest being £4,581.25 ($5,675), according to Jed Goodman via Sportskeeda.
Despite many fans on social media feeling that those prices were high, there were said to have been 40,000 people in the online queue on the first day of sales.
The cheapest tickets available to select on January 30, 2023 cost £739.50 ($916), with ringside seats priced up to £6317.75 ($7,827).