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The UFC is stacking the deck ahead of the organisation’s return to Manchester this summer.

The event, UFC 304, will be the first numbered pay-per-view event to take place in the United Kingdom in many a moon and the organisation’s first fight card in Manchester since October 2016.

The event has drawn some scrutiny in recent weeks when it was revealed that it would kick off at time for sympathetic to a US-based audience, meaning that the main card will begin at 3am local time.

But if there was a little disappointment in the UK fight community at the impending late night, the blow has been softened after the UFC confirmed the first fights for the July 27 card late on Thursday.

According to Dana White, UFC 304 will be headlined by welterweight champion Leon Edwards defending his crown in a rematch against Belal Muhammad — more than three years after their first fight was ended early because of an accidental eye-poke sustained by Muhammad.

In the co-main, Tom Aspinall — who has so far drawn a blank in his pursuit of Jon Jones — will defend his interim heavyweight title against Curtis Blaydes in another fight that is a rematch of a contest that previously ended in unfortunate circumstances. In July 2022, Aspinall sustained a serious knee injury in the opening seconds of a fight with Blaydes in London, which sidelined him from the sport for almost exactly a year.

Elsewhere, Paddy Pimblett will return to the cage to take on the experienced Bobby Green while both Arnold Allen and Muhammad Mokaev will compete against Giga Chikadze and Manel Kape respectively.

Several more bouts are expected to be announced in the coming days and weeks.