UFC 294 has another major change — with another high-profile replacement stepping in.
Former UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman will now fight Khamzat Chimaev in the co-main event of the card Oct. 21 in Abu Dhabi, UFC president Dana White announced Wednesday on social media. Chimaev was supposed to face Paulo Costa, but he had elbow surgery three weeks ago and was not cleared.
ESPN has Usman ranked No. 2 in the world at welterweight with Chimaev at No. 4. This bout will take place at middleweight, where it was originally scheduled when Costa was the opponent.
Costa posted on social media that he did not want to withdraw from the bout.
Usman (20-3) has not fought since a title rematch loss to Leon Edwards at UFC 286 in March. The Nigerian-born fighter who trains out of Florida and Colorado lost the belt to Edwards in August 2022. Usman, 36, was on a 15-fight winning streak before the two defeats, the second longest winning streak in UFC history. ESPN has Usman ranked No. 6 in the world on its pound-for-pound list.
Chimaev (12-0) is 6-0 in the UFC with five finishes. The Chechen-born fighter has fought at both middleweight and welterweight in the UFC. Chimaev, 29, is considered one of the most fearsome up-and-coming fighters in the UFC and a potential future champion in either weight class.
The UFC 294 main event will be Islam Makhachev putting his UFC lightweight title on the line against featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski. That fight came together Tuesday when Charles Oliveira, the former lightweight champ, sustained a cut in training and had to withdraw from the Makhachev fight.