Rashad Evans is officially on the comeback trail.
Evans is slated to fight Dan Kelly at UFC 209 on March 4, MMA Fighting confirmed. ESPN first reported the fight Tuesday night.
Evans, who will be making his long-awaited middleweight debut, hasn’t fought since April 2016. He was forced to withdraw from UFC 205 just four days before the event after the New York State Athletic Commission refused to license him when a medical issue popped up on a pre-fight MRI exam. The Ontario Athletic Commission also refused to license him to fight at UFC 206 due to the same issue, however, according to sources, Evans is now cleared to resume his career.
“The thing that happened in New York, it was pretty much a misunderstanding with the brain MRI thing,” Evans said on a recent episode of The MMA Hour. “Because the radiologist read pretty much the same radiology exam and then he gave two different assessments of it. In 2013, he said it was absolutely fine, there’s nothing. And then in 2016, looking at pretty much the same identical image, he said I had new changes, which to the commission was like, wait, if you have new changes with your brain MRI, then your brain is still injured and you can’t compete.
“But upon further review and having everything looked at and tested up the wazoo, it was pretty clear what happened. And it was just a radiologist not doing his due diligence. But, at the end of day it cost me, and it is what it is, but I was able to put it behind me and move forward.”
Evans (19-5-1), a 37-year-old former UFC light heavyweight champion, hasn’t won since his Nov. 2013 fight against Chael Sonnen. Since then, he’s battled multiple knee injuries, which sidelined him for 23 months, and upon returning to action lost his last two fights.
Kelly (12-1), the 39-year-old Australian Olympic Judoka, has won his last three fights in a row and will be competing in his most high-profile MMA fight to date. This fight will also mark just the second time in Kelly’s eleven-year career that he fights outside of his native Australia.
UFC 209, headlined by Tyron Woodley vs. Stephen Thompson 2 for the welterweight title, will take place at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.