Two people with knowledge of the situation informed MMAjunkie of the impending booking between Lawler (28-12 MMA, 13-6 UFC) and Thompson (14-3-1 MMA, 9-3-1 UFC). The people requested anonymity because the UFC has yet to make an official announcement.
Lawler representative Dave Martin told MMAjunkie that Lawler, who tore his anterior cruciate ligament back in January, has not been medically cleared for training and will meet with his surgeon Monday in Florida.
The Jan. 18 fight card is expected to be the first under the UFC’s deal with ESPN, which begins in 2019, and air on the flagship network. A location and venue for the card have yet to be finalized.
Lawler, No. 7 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA welterweight rankingswill return to the octagon after a more than year-long layoff. He hasn’t fought since a loss to Rafael dos Anjos at UFC on FOX 26 in December. Lawler, 36, is 1-1 since he dropped the 170-pound title to Tyron Woodley in July 2016, with his win coming against Donald Cerrone.
No. 5 Thompson, 35, will enter the event following a somewhat controversial loss to current title contender Darren Till at UFC Fight Night 130 in May. Prior to that, “Wonderboy” had suffered just one loss in 10 fights, with that result being a majority-decision defeat against champ Woodley at UFC 209 in March 2017.
For more on the upcoming UFC schedule, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.
MMAjunkie’s John Morgan contributed to this report.