By Raphael Garcia
News broke late last week that March’s UFC 196 card will feature two major title bouts: Holly Holm defending her bantamweight title against Miesha Tate and UFC Featherweight Champion Conor McGregor challenging UFC Lightweight Champion Rafael dos Anjos. This news, while not confirmed by the UFC, raises a multitude of questions regarding what’s next for a number of fighters. However, if the event moves forward as expected, this is a business move that will reap major benefits for the UFC.
The minds behind UFC events seem like they are hell bent on getting the largest return from every planned event. 2015 set the stage, as the promotion took in $600 million, which is recognized as the most profitable year in the company’s history. And if the start of 2016 has said anything, it’s that the UFC is making a clear push to top that number, and setting these two fights is the right decision in pursuit of that end.
McGregor’s presence has caused some of the biggest events for the UFC in 2015. UFC 189 is one of five shows to hit more than 800,000 PPV buys. One of the others is UFC 194, which featured his 13-second win over Jose Aldo in the main event. The result? Nearly every fighter is calling out the Irishman because they know he has box office appeal.
Frankie Edgar and his fans, the former lightweight champion and number-one contender to the featherweight title will most likely have to wait a while for his shot at the belt. It seems that the UFC will allow McGregor to move up in weight while keeping the 145-pound title, bringing two divisions to a screeching halt for the cash grab that is right in front of them. That said, the last time this happened, when lightweight champion BJ Penn challenged welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre at UFC 94, that card yielded 920,000 pay-per-view buys, highs for both fighters at the time, and solidified both fighters as strong PPV draws.
The goal of professional sports organizations is to make the most money possible for the greatest amount of time. And even though hardcore fans do not want to admit it, the UFC is a company that is always looking at the bottom line, rather than making fights dictated by the rankings. If the rumors surrounding UFC 196 are true, this event has the potential to be another monumental event for the organization. Regardless of what the rankings say, this is a card that the fans will want to see.
• Rafael dos Anjos vs. Conor McGregor (UFC Lightweight Championship)
• Holly Holm vs. Miesha Tate
UFC 196: Dos Anjos vs. McGregor (formerly UFC 197: Dos Anjos vs. McGregor) takes place on March 5, 2016 at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.