After a rocky start to the year, with Brock Lesnar declining to return to the Octagon and Conor McGregor still MIA after his submission loss at UFC 229, Dana White needed a strong middle of the year to keep momentum flowing.
With Jon Jones headlining International Fight Week, Daniel Cormier running it back against Stipe Miocic and monster unification fights going down in Abu Dhabi and Sydney, the UFC is set for an electric summer of fights if all goes to plan.
There also remains space for fights to be added, with a welterweight title grudge match between Kamaru Usman and Colby Covington on the cards, not to mention the possible return of the Notorious.
All fights are confirmed by the UFC unless otherwise stated.
UFC 237: Namajunas vs. Andrade – May 11th
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Rose Namajunas (c) x #1 Jessica Andrade (women’s strawweight championship)
#10 Jared Cannonier x #15 Anderson Silva (middleweight bout)
#1 Jose Aldo x #4 Alex Volkanovski (featherweight bout)
This weekend’s card in Rio is highlighted by strawweight queen heading into enemy territory to defend against home favourite Jessica Andrade. Namajunas hasn’t defended her belt for over a year, winning a rematch with Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC 223 last April.
Jared Cannonier looks to move on after a surprise win over David Branch in November to face MMA legend Anderson Silva in his home country.
Jose Aldo will fight for perhaps the final time in his homeland when he stares down surging contender Alex Volkanovski, who ended the career of Chad Mendes in his last outing.
UFC 238: Cejudo vs. Moraes – June 8th
Henry Cejudo (c-FW) x #1 Marlon Moraes (vacant bantamweight championship)
Valentina Shevchenko (c) x #1 Jessica Eye (women’s flyweight championship)
#2 Tony Ferguson x #4 Donald Cerrone (lightweight bout)
Henry Cejudo looks to become only the fourth UFC fighter to hold two belts simultaneously, when he meets top contender Marlon Moraes for the vacant bantamweight championship.
Former champion T. J. Dillashaw relinquished the title after being flagged by USADA following his own attempt to become a champ-champ ended in a 32-second knockout by Cejudo, with The Messenger successfully defending his flyweight prize.
Elsewhere, women’s flyweight queen Valentina Shevchenko makes her first defence since winning the gold at UFC 231 in December, battling Jessica Eye.
UFC 239: Jones vs. Santos – July 6th
Las Vegas, NV (International Fight Week)
Jon Jones (c) x #3 Thiago Santos (light heavyweight championship)
Amanda Nunes (c-BW/FW) x #2 Holly Holm (women’s bantamweight championship)
#4 Jorge Masvidal x #5 Ben Askren (welterweight bout)
#6 Jan Blachowitz x #3 MW Luke Rockhold (light heavyweight bout)
UFC 240: Holloway vs. Edgar – July 27th
Max Holloway (c) x #4 Frankie Edgar (featherweight championship)
#1 Cris Cyborg x #4 Felicia Spencer (women’s featherweight bout)
UFC 241: Cormier vs. Miocic 2 – August 17th
Daniel Cormier (c) x #1 Stipe Miocic (heavyweight championship)
Nate Diaz x #8 Anthony Pettis (welterweight bout)
#2 Yoel Romero x #8 Paulo Costa (middleweight bout)
With a rumoured fight against Brock Lesnar falling through after the WWE star seemingly retired last week, the UFC moved to book a rematch between former champion Miocic and Cormier, who knocked out the Cleveland native in the first round at UFC 226.
Cormier, whose self-imposed retirement date on his 40th birthday in March has come and gone, is edging closer and closer to the exit, with this by no means an easy title defence.
Should he earn another victory over the long-reigning former champ, the lure of a potential Madison Square Garden date with rival Jon Jones for the 265-pound strap may be too strong to pass up, with a heavy payday in his potential last fight.
UFC 242: Khabib vs. Poirier – September 7th
Abu Dhabi, UAE
Khabib Nurmagomedov (c) x Dustin Poirier (ic) (undisputed lightweight championship
Both McGregor and Khabib were banned after their roles in the UFC 229 post-fight brawl, and the champion’s punishment runs out July 6th.
With his unblemished, 26-0 record, he is the key to the UFC’s continued worldwide expansion, and his next defence will be a unification against interim titleholder Dustin Poirier, who bested 145-pound champ Max Holloway for the belt at UFC 236 last month.
UFC 243: Whittaker vs. Adesanya – October 6th
Robert Whittaker (c) x Israel Adesanya (ic) (undisputed middleweight championship)
Exactly one year to the day from the colossal Khabib-McGregor card which shattered the UFC pay-per-view record, the promotion goes Down Under as Sydney plays host to a massive stadium fight.
Australia’s Robert Whittaker, forced to pull out of a defence against Kelvin Gastelum in February due to a hernia, returns to meet interim champion and Auckland native, Israel Adesanya, in arguably the biggest MMA fight staged outside of North America.