Leon Edwards will no longer meet Tyron Woodley in the main event of UFC Fight Night 171 after the Briton was forced to pull out of the restructured plans for the card.
Edwards—who lives in Birmingham, England—was set to headline the UFC London card on March 21 before the event had to be rescheduled as a result of travel restrictions caused by the coronavirus.
Rocky took to Twitter and explained his decision to pull out after he and the promotion explored options to preserve the fight:
Most professional sports have decided to suspend activities in response to the threat of COVID-19, but UFC President Dana White told SportsCenter on Saturday no events would be cancelled:
White confirmed UFC Fight Night 171 will go on despite being moved from the O2 Arena in London to a new location "likely in the United States."
Edwards was due to fight on home soil on Saturday for the fifth time in his UFC career. The 28-year-old has been on the undercard in London three times, while he also submitted Albert Tumenov at UFC 204 in Manchester, winning on each occasion.
The Jamaica-born fighter lost two of his first four fights in the UFC—a debut defeat to Claudio Silva followed by a unanimous-decision result to current welterweight champion Kamaru Usman.
CNN reported United States President Donald Trump had declared a national emergency, with the United Kingdom soon to join a list of European countries prevented from travelling to the U.S..
Mixed martial arts reporter Jim Edwards said Edwards was given a short window of time to make his decision regarding travel to the United States:
Edwards made the choice to remain at home rather than rushing to keep open his hopes for a fight, not to mention limiting the risk of spreading COVID-19, or either he or one of his team contracting it.
He's riding an eight-win streak and is willing to bide his time in order to capitalise on the momentum he's built towards a run at the welterweight crown.
Woodley, 37, hasn't fought since he lost the welterweight belt to Usman in March 2019, though he still appears to feel like he belongs in the title conversation:
The Chosen One was unbeaten for almost five years before he lost via unanimous decision to Usman, while Edwards looks like one of the most exciting talents coming through at the top of the welterweight class.
The winner of this matchup could be the next to get a shot at Usman, who has won his last 15 fights and successfully defended his belt for the first time when he finished Colby Covington at UFC 245 in December.