This event will be the first UFC event hosted in New York City. It will also be the first UFC event hosted in the state of New York after the longtime professional MMA ban was revoked in early 2016. UFC 7 was the only event ever hosted in the state, taking place at Buffalo before the ban was created.

The UFC worked tirelessly to surpass the law that forbade professional mixed martial arts events in the state, including a drastic measure: they announced an event (UFC 197) for the Madison Square Garden, despite the ban still being in effect. However, it was announced that a preliminary injunction allowing the promotion to hold the event was denied by a federal judge. The event was eventually moved to Las Vegas, Nevada.

A lightweight bout between Al Iaquinta and former UFC Welterweight Championship challenger Thiago Alves was previously linked to UFC 202. However, it is now expected to be contested at this event.

A middleweight bout between Tim Kennedy and former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion and divisional newcomer Rashad Evans has been targeted for the event.

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