UFC 197 looks to upstage the much-hyped UFC 200 by featuring an unusual and an unexpected title matchup.
Conor McGregor faces Rafael Dos Anjos for the lightweight belt in a rare champion-versus-champion bout and Holly Holm defends her 135-pound women’s title against Miesha Tate at the Las Vegas event scheduled for March
BREAKING: Multiple sources confirm UFC will soon announce UFC 197 for March 5 in Vegas with Dos Anjos/McGregor and Holm/Tate.
— Jeremy Botter (@jeremybotter) January 8, 2016
Both Dos Anjos and McGregor made quick work of their opponents in December. The Brazilian dispensed with Cowboy Cerrone in 66 seconds and the Irishman needed just one fifth of that time to knock out Jose Aldo with a left cross. The scheduled bout leaves Frankie Edgar, a more marketable opponent than Dos Anjos, without a fight. But McGregor-Dos Anjos, despite the Brazilian’s lack of name recognition, may do better business than the hypothetical McGregor-Edgar fight because both men enter the cage wearing belts. McGregor’s audaciousness in taking on the much stronger man, and the novelty of champion-verses-champion, naturally piques curiosity among casual fans. The only match pitting champions of different weight classes against one another in promotion history came at UFC 94 when lightweight BJ Penn failed to win his rematch against welterweight Georges St. Pierre.
Before McGregor earned a single UFC belt he stated his goal to win belts. He reverentially referred to his belts from the obscure Cage Warriors Fighting Championship as world titles, with his ambition to win back his world titles, plural, in the UFC. Dismissed as McGregorian bluster at the time, King Conor rebuts that conventional wisdom in rushing to schedule a fight with Dos Anjos so soon after defeating his fellow countryman for the featherweight championship at UFC 194.
“The goal at the end of the day is world titles ” McGregor told Breitbart Sports one year ago (see above video). “Like I said, I came into this promotion as a two-weight world champion. I vacated those belts when I signed with the UFC. I am in the process of regaining them again.”
The co-main event comes across as a rare instance of Dana White allowing a fighter to call the shots.
Dana White dismissed the idea of granting the Preacher’s Daughter’s prayer to fight before a motherlode Holly Holm-Ronda Rousey rematch. But White caved, perhaps because he creates a marketable marquee fight between old rivals Miesha Tate and Ronda Rousey should Tate beat Holm and because Ronda Rousey wears her birthday suit with body paint applied in the new Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, hosts Saturday Night Live later this month, and stars in the upcoming Road House remake but does not show any great zeal to avenge her knockout loss to Holm. In the end, forcing a fighting champion to become a fidgety champion by sitting at home without a fight did not make sense because refusing to schedule Holm-Tate for jeopardizing a Holm-Rousey rematch that may never take place left the UFC with zero possible moneymaking opportunities instead of two or more.
Prior to Holm, Ronda Rousey faced her stiffest challenge in Miesha Tate, who showed that Rowdy did not like getting punched in the face and demonstrated a high-tolerance for pain in refusing to tap trapped in several submissions. Whereas Rousey elicited widespread condemnation for refusing to touch gloves with Holm prior to their fight, she turned cheers into boos when she rejected Tate’s extended hand after their rematch. Tate, 17-5, rides a four-fight winning streak into the octagon against the 10-0 Holm.
Both bouts would mean big business for the UFC headlining any card. The fact that they take place on the same night raises expectations that pay-per views reach the one million mark for only the ninth time in the promotion’s history.