Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC
Multiple people with knowledge of the promotion’s plan confirmed the news to MMA Fighting following an initial report from MMA Junkie.
Touted as a future contender since his first day on the roster, Ankalaev will face his biggest test to date when he takes on Smith this summer. The Russian fighter has gone 8-1 in the UFC, with his only loss coming in a last-second submission from Paul Craig back in 2018.
Since that time, Ankalaev has rattled off eight consecutive wins, including a unanimous decision over Thiago Santos in a main-event fight in March.
As for Smith, he’ll look to add another big win to his résumé following three straight finishes that included a ‘Performance of the Night’ over Ryan Spann this past September.
Smith has been a perennial threat at the top of the 205-pound division since moving to the weight class. He earned a title shot in 2019 but came up short in a decision to ex-champion Jon Jones.
Now Smith will attempt to put himself back into the race for the light heavyweight title when he clashes with Ankalaev at UFC 277.