Leon Edwards will make his next defense of the welterweight title against Colby Covington.

The UFC is working to ensure the Edwards-Covington bout takes place in London, Sports Illustrated has learned.

Edwards is one of the toughest men in mixed martial arts, but he is not the biggest standalone draw—at least not yet. He is soft spoken, and not charismatic in the same vein as Conor McGregor or Israel Adesanya, Edwards needs the right opponent to sell his bout, which he had in spades with the great Kamaru Usman at UFC 286.

Their bout at the O2 Arena affirmed that Edwards’s popularity is immense in London, which is right near his home in Birmingham.

Holding this bout was not the initial plan, but it makes too much sense after the success of UFC 286. Edwards was the clear crowd favorite at 286, so a return bout would make perfect sense. Covington sat cageside during the Edwards-Usman bout, and the crowd’s reaction to him was also particularly strong. With Edwards as the protagonist, Covington will undoubtedly be delighted to play the role of the American villain in England.

Combat Sports UK reported the UFC is set to return to London on July 22. While that seems like an ambitious timeline for Edwards, it certainly provides context for why a contract has yet to be signed.

UFC president Dana White has made no secret about his love for London. A title bout pitting Covington against Edwards is the biggest possible headline for the UFC’s return.

Daniel James ready to break through to the next level in Bellator

Daniel James enters the highest-profile fight of his career Friday night, meeting Marcelo Golm in the main event of Bellator 293.

James (14-5-1) is a fight promoter’s dream. The 6'6" heavyweight is explosive in the cage, with steel in his hands and an inspiring backstory, emerging from a rough part of Chicago to become a pro fighter.

“I’ve taken the hard route,” says James, who has won four in a row. “That’s the best route. It goes beyond hard work and dedication. I’m working hard every day and dedicating myself to the craft. Making it took courage. I didn’t step on people to get here.”

This isn’t the first time James has won four fights in a row. At 41, his forward progress has been interrupted with disappointing defeats, the type that stifled his momentum. A bout against Golm (10–3) is a massive chance for him to take the next step in his career, one he has been unable to attain. Golm, who is also on a four-fight win streak, is ranked fifth in the division—a spot that will belong to James if he wins.

“He’s hungry, and I’m hungry, too,” says James. “But I’m going to put Chicago on my back and represent.”

The Pick ’Em Section:

Bellator 293 heavyweight bout: Daniel James vs. Marcelo Golm

Pick: Daniel James

Bellator 293 women’s featherweight bout: Cat Zingano vs. Leah McCourt

Pick: Cat Zingano

PFL 1 featherweight bout: Brendan Loughnane vs. Marlon Moraes

Pick: Brendan Loughnane

PFL 1 light heavyweight bout: Thiago Santos vs. Rob Wilkinson

Pick: Robert Wilkinson

PFL 1 light heavyweight bout: Krzysztof Jotko vs. Will Fleury

Pick: Krzysztof Jotko

Last week: 2–3

2023 record: 30–19

Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.