Alluded to by UFC President Dana White on UFC Tonight Wednesday, Bleacher Report’s Jeremy Botter cited multiple sources in reporting Thursday night that UFC featherweight champion Conor McGregor will move up in weight to challenge UFC lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos in an effort to become the UFC’s first dual belt holder and their third fighter to win belts in two weight classes.
If the report is accurate, the fight will happen at UFC 197 on March 5th in Las Vegas with a co-main event of women’s bantamweight champion Holly Holm vs. Miesha Tate, a fight that became quite clear after White said that the 10-0 Holm’s next title defense would not be against Ronda Rousey as he had originally said. Holm dominated Rousey to win the title in a shocking upset via 2nd round knockout in November while the 29-year-old Tate (17-5) is riding a four-fight winning streak after downing Jessica Eye in a July unanimous decison win.
White and other UFC officials had previously shot down any other previous champion who said they wanted to move up in weight, win another title, and defend both belts. The 19-2 McGregor, however, has a lot of bargaining power and a fight against the talented but promotionally flat dos Anjos (25-7) is the biggest draw of a fight the champion currently has.
Unfortunately, this also puts a McGregor/Frankie Edgar featherweight title on ice, as well as stunts the next steps for top lightweight contender Tony Ferguson and the winner of January 17th’s Anthony Pettis vs. Eddie Alvarez bout on Fox Sports One.
Regardless, putting these two huge fights on the same show assures the UFC of another big PPV buyrate for the first quarter of the year.
Holm instantly became one of UFC’s biggest stars with a knockout win over Ronda Rousey, winning the bantamweight title. While UFC officials had stated many times that Holm’s first title defense would be a rematch, which would be the biggest money fight in UFC history, the decision was made to give Rousey more time and have Holm defend against Tate. Tate was originally scheduled for the shot at Rousey that Holm got, but it was pulled because UFC officials decided that even though Tate was the top contender and had won a match over Jessica Eye to get the shot, that since Rousey had beaten her twice, they would put Rousey with a new opponent.
It’s virtually a lock that the winner of this fight would face Rousey later in 2016.