Former UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez is set to end his long injury lay-off early in the new year.
According to UFC president Dana White via ESPN, Velasquez will make his return on February 17th against former title challenger Francis Ngannou in Phoenix, Arizona.
Velasquez (14-2) has not fought since 2016 where he defeated Travis Browne in dominant fashion on the main card of UFC 200. The former champion’s career has been plagued by injury with the 36-year-old only fighting twice since 2014. Despite his injury woes, however, Velasquez is widely considered to be one of the greatest heavyweight fighters of all time.
Ngannou (12-3) has risen to prominence during Velasquez’s absence meanwhile and most recently defeated Curtis Blaydes inside a minute last month. The Cameroonian-French fighter developed a six-fight winning streak once he joined the UFC in 2015, culminating in a failed title challenge against Stipe Miocic at UFC 220.
The February event is slated to be the UFC’s debut show on ESPN and is currently scheduled to feature:
- Cain Velasquez vs. Francis Ngannou
- Cortney Casey vs. Cynthia Calvillo
- Jimmie Rivera vs. Aljamain Sterling
- Alex Caceres vs. Kron Gracie
- James Vick vs. Paul Felder
- Andre Fili vs. Myles Jury
- Vicente Luque vs. Bryan Barberena
- Renan Barão vs. Luke Sanders
- Scott Holtzman vs. Nik Lentz
- Benito Lopez vs. Manny Bermudez
- Andrea Lee vs. Ashlee Evans-Smith
- Aleksandra Albu vs. Emily Whitmire
- Jessica Penne vs. Jodie Esquibel