The UFC is returning to the Big Apple with UFC 268.
On Saturday, during the UFC on ESPN: Barboza vs. Chikadze broadcast several bouts for the promotion’s return to Madison Square Garden were confirmed. Two rematches that happen to be title fights and one lightweight matchup that is sure to be a “fight of the night” contender for the November card.
Since the ban in New York on mixed martial arts was lifted in 2016, the UFC has come in heavy to New York City with their first event being UFC 205. Conor McGregor versus Eddie Alvarez was on the card and the arena sold out, with fans even stopping traffic on Seventh Avenue on fight night. History was made that night for the UFC with McGregor defeating Alvarez to become a two-division champ, the then Women's Strawweight Champion Joanna Jędrzejczyk successfully defended her title, and Tyron Woodley, who was also the welterweight champion at the time defended his title as well. It was a great night for the UFC and the sport of MMA in New York.
The trend with huge cards started then and will continue at UFC 268. The title fight/rematches are:
Welterweight champion: Kamaru Usman vs. Colby Covington
Women’s Strawweight Champion: Rose Namajunas vs. Zhang Weili
Usman and Covington have crossed hands before with Usman successfully defending his title at UFC 245. He finished Covington in the final round to win by TKO and Covington has since fought his way back to the number one UFC ranked welterweight spot to get another shot at Usman. The two have taken jabs at each other since the first fight so there is plenty of build-up leading into this rematch and likely, more to come.
Namajunas has had a lot of success in Madison Square Garden. She won the strawweight title from Jędrzejczyk at UFC 217, the UFC’s second event in “the world’s most famous arena,” and the subsequent rematch. She handily beat Weili in their first match at UFC 261 last April when she knocked her out in the first round. So, this rematch might favor “Thug Rose” in New York since she originally won the title there before.
The lightweight bout should also be on the radar of fight fans. Both Justin Gaethje and Michael Chandler are former lightweight champions in other promotions outside of the UFC. Gaethje left World Series of Fighting (WSOF) as their undefeated lightweight champion to come to the UFC, Chandler a multiple-time Bellator lightweight champion joined the UFC this year and is currently ranked number four in the UFC lightweight rankings.
Outside of the UFC, the two lightweights have fought there before but not both of them have great memories of it. Gaethje defended his WSOF title for the final time in December of 2016 in Madison Square Garden when defeated Luiz Firmino via TKO. Chandler, unfortunately, has had a loss to Brent Primus in the venue from 2017. A technical knockout due to leg kicks, something Gaethje is very good at.
Old-school, hardcore MMA fans are seeing this as a Bellator vs. WSOF match and it sort of is.
Tickets for the presale are scheduled for September 17.
The card is not finalized but every UFC card in Madison Square Garden has always been stacked from top to bottom. Take a look at the rest of the bouts confirmed:
Germaine de Randamie vs Irene Aldana
Al Iaquinta vs Bobby Green
Frankie Edgar vs Marlon Vera
As November approaches the card will likely get bigger. This, being the UFC’s return to New York since the COVID-19 pandemic shut things down, no one should be surprised that they’re coming big.
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