The UFC’s long-awaited return to Detroit is shaping up to be a big card, and now it appears a pair of former champs will grace the lineup.
Just two days after a main event between featherweight champion Max Holloway and ex-lightweight champ Frankie Edgar was made official, the card apparently will feature current “TUF 26” coaches Eddie Alvarez (28-5 MMA, 3-2 UFC) and Justin Gaethje (18-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC) in a lightweight showdown.
Alvarez’s coach, Mark Henry, made the announcement Wednesday on his Instagram account, though UFC officials have not yet made a formal announcement of the date and location. The pair have been presumed to fight since they were named coaches for Season 26 of “The Ultimate Fighter,” which airs Wednesday nights on FS1. The TUF 26 Finale, which often is the event on which the opposing coaches fight in the main event, takes place the night before in Las Vegas.
UFC 218 takes place Dec. 2 at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit. The main card airs on pay-per-view following prelims expected for FS1 and UFC Fight Pass. The UFC has not been to the Detroit area since 2010 for UFC 123 in the city’s north suburbs.
Just when your pumped for FE vs Max for the strap ?? you get an iconic fight ( brawl) same day!! @ealvarezfight vs @justin_gaethje Dec 2 UFC 218. Huge fan of Justin and his fights and team. It's going to get CRAZY!! @ealvarezfight @frankieedgar LETS GOO!! TEAM @ricardoalmeidabjj @renzograciebjj @nickcatonemma
A post shared by Mark Henry (@mark_henry7) on
Gaethje, a former WSOF lightweight champion who moved to the UFC earlier this year in free agency, is No. 4 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA lightweight rankings. Former UFC and Bellator champ Alvarez sits just behind him at No. 5.
Gaethje won WSOF’s lightweight title in January 2014 at WSOF 8. He defended it five times, all with knockout or TKO finishes. The only time he didn’t get a finish for WSOF, where he went 10-0 before signing with the UFC, was in a non-title fight against UFC veteran Melvin Guillard after Guillard missed weight. Gaethje won that fight by split decision in November 2014.
When he signed with the UFC earlier this year, Gaethje got a stiff first test against Michael Johnson at the TUF 25 Finale in Las Vegas. But the 28-year-old passed with flying colors and won not just a $50,000 performance bonus for his second-round TKO win, but a “Fight of the Night” bonus, as well, instantly endearing himself to a new group of fans in his new promotional home.
Alvarez will be fighting for the first time in more than a year when he steps in against Gaethje. At UFC 205 in November 2016, he lost his lightweight title to Conor McGregor, making McGregor the first concurrent two-division champ in UFC history. Prior to that, he had a three-fight winning streak with split decisions over former champs Gilbert Melendez and Anthony Pettis followed by a dominant TKO win over Rafael dos Anjos to win the lightweight title at UFC Fight Night 90 in July 2016.
Before Alvarez came to the UFC in 2014, he went 9-1 under the Bellator banner, where he was that promotion’s first lightweight champion. He closed out his Bellator run with three straight wins, including winning back the lightweight belt from Michael Chandler, who had taken it from him two years prior in an upset.
The UFC 218 lineup includes: