A pair of UFC title fights have been slated to co-headline the promotion's annual International Fight Week on July 2 in Las Vegas.
UFC announced on Saturday that middleweight champion Israel Adesanya will seek his fifth title defense against Jared Cannonier. Also, a long-anticipated featherweight trilogy between Alexander Volkanovski and Max Holloway will serve as the co-main event. UFC 276 will take place inside T-Mobile Arena.
Adesanya (22-1) is considered one of the best pound-for-pound fighters on the planet, and has developed into one of the UFC's biggest stars. He signed a lucrative contract extension with the UFC prior to his last title defense in February. His only loss came when he attempted to move up in weight and capture a second UFC title. He came up short against then-light heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz via unanimous decision in March 2021.
Cannonier (15-5) has earned a shot at the title by winning five of his past six contests, including victories over Anderson Silva, Kelvin Gastelum and Derek Brunson. His only loss during that time came against former champion Robert Whittaker.
Volkanovski and Holloway first met at UFC 245 in December 2019. Volkanovski (24-1) took the belt via unanimous decision in an upset. The fight was so close the UFC booked an immediate rematch in July 2020. Volkanovski narrowly won again by split decision.
Since then, Volkanovski has cemented himself as one of, if not the best, pound-for-pound fighters in the world. He has now defended the title three times, including victories over Brian Ortega and Chan Sung Jung, just one month ago at UFC 273.
"I wanted a quick turnaround and we got it," Volkanovski said. "Looking forward to the trilogy with Max."
Holloway (23-6) has forced the issue of a third fight with impressive wins against Calvin Kattar and Yair Rodriguez. The 30-year-old Hawaiian has won 16 of his past 18 fights in the featherweight division, with the only two losses coming against Volkanovski.
"When's the last time we had two guys in the top half of the pound-for-pound rankings fight each other?" Holloway told ESPN. "Happened only a few times in the last decade, right? Our sport is about the best fighting the best and this one more layer of the bestest on top of that. Same fighters, yeah, but to our peers, coaches, to the trained eye, they see a different fight every time and that's why the elite of this industry keep asking for it again. Because it is different. It's changing styles, changing strategies, new skills we working on. It's the bleeding edge of our sport.
"It's a trailer for what's next in MMA for the coming years. Some guys when they get to the top, they just want to hold that belt as long as they can. They take long breaks to defend. I got five UFC belts in my closet. At this point, holding a belt doesn't add anything to my career. For me, it's about being active and fighting the best the UFC can bring me. If that's Alex again, then it's Alex. Why would I want to fight somebody less talented? How you guys gonna get up in the morning and ask for less of yourself with a coffee and some fruits?"
ESPN ranks Volkanovski and Holloway the Nos. 3 and 6 pound-for-pound fighters in the world, respectively.