Less than 24 hours after announcing UFC 294 had a new main event, the promotion has reported that the October 21 fight card also has a new co-main event.
UFC 294, which takes place at Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi, initially had Khamzat Chimaev facing Paulo Costa in the co-main event. That fight fell through after Costa was ruled out after he underwent elbow surgery a few weeks ago.
UFC CEO Dana White announced the new fight on Instagram.
“Costa’s hurt,” said White. “You know, all the rumors that are flying around, we got it done. So, the No. 4 welterweight in the world, Khamzat Chimaev, is moving up to middleweight and will face the No. 1 welterweight in the world, Kamaru Usman. So, No. 1 vs. No. 4 at middleweight, Usman vs. Chimaev. I will see you in Abu Dhabi.”
Chimaev enters the fight coming off a UFC 279 submission win over Kevin Holland. Chimaev was initially booked to face Nate Diaz on that fight card, but he weighed in at 180 pounds for the contest. The UFC shuffled the card after weigh-ins to make the Chimaev vs. Holland booking at a catchweight of 180. That fight took place on September 10, 2022.
Usman, the former UFC welterweight champion, enters UFC 294 after back-to-back losses to Leon Edwards. Usman lost his 170-pound crown to Edwards via a head-kick knockout at UFC 278. He dropped the rematch at UFC 286 in March of this year via a majority decision. Before his loss, Usman had defended the title five times.
As for Costa, MMA Fighting reports that Tamara Alves, Costa’s partner and manager, said that the former UFC middleweight title challenger is not medically cleared to compete at UFC 294 because of the “still active” infection in his right elbow.
According to Alves, Costa had a second surgery for the infection on Tuesday. He is scheduled for a third surgery on Friday. Alves added that Costa never hid his injury from the UFC.
The change in co-main event comes less than 24 hours after the promotion announced that Charles Oliveira was out of the UFC 294 main event after the former lightweight champion suffered a cut during sparring on Monday.
With Oliveira out of his rematch against current UFC lightweight titleholder Islam Makhachev, the promotion booked UFC featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski in his place.
Makhachev and Volkanovski fought in the main event of UFC 284. Makhachev won that tightly contested battle by unanimous decision. Makhachev has not fought since that February matchup, while Volkanovski is coming off a win TKO win over Yair Rodriguez at UFC 290 in July.
UFC 294 is an early card in the States. The ESPN+ pay-per-view card begins at 2:00 p.m. ET, following prelims on ESPN+ at 10:00 a.m. ET.