Once again, the UFC has managed to surprise — this time, in its booking of UFC 197.

While it has been known for at least the past few days that Holly Holm would likely get to fight again before fighting in a rematch against Ronda Rousey, few expected the UFC to book one of the biggest cards of 2016 in early March, featuring both Holm, taking on former Strikeforce champion Miesha Tate, and Conor McGregor, moving up in weight for a once in a lifetime shot at holding two UFC titles simultaneously when he takes on lightweight champion Rafael Dos Anjos.

It’s a gamble — if McGregor or the winner of Holm vs. Tate winds up injured, it could seriously impact any potential UFC 200 bout, and rest assured, the UFC still wants one or both of McGregor and former champ Ronda Rousey on that card — but one that could very well pay off. Here’s why.

For starters, win or lose, McGregor will hold on to his featherweight title, as he’ll be going up in weight to face Dos Anjos, the first time Dana White and co. have allowed an existing champ to move up and challenge for a second title. Remember when Anthony Pettis wanted to drop to featherweight and fight Jose Aldo while still lightweight champ? White was having none of it. However, in terms of star power, Pettis isn’t McGregor. The UFC is in the Conor business right now, and business is good. Letting him fight at lightweight is a win-win situation: even if he loses, there’s still a lucrative fight with Frankie Edgar down the road, or a rematch with Aldo, at 145lbs.

The Holm situation is equally attractive. If she wins, Rousey is still waiting in the wings for a rematch. If Holm should lose to Miesha Tate, you’ve still got the most heated rivalry in women’s MMA to promote, plus Tate would then be holding the UFC women’s bantamweight championship, making a third fight between her and Rousey an easier sell.

The only complicating factor will be injury, but then, those are always a factor in the MMA game. In short, early March is far enough away from July’s UFC 200 that the promotion no doubt assumes the key players here will be ready to fight again. A gamble, but a safer one than you might think, especially as both Holm and McGregor have voiced their preference to be active champs.

In any case, UFC 197 now looks to be the must-see event of 2016, at least until UFC 200 rolls around.

About The Author

Senior Staff Writer

Covering the sport of MMA from Ontario, Canada, Jay Anderson has been writing for various publications covering sports, technology, and pop culture since 2001. Jay holds an Honours Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Guelph, and a Certificate in Leadership Skills from Humber College under the Ontario Management Development Program. When not slaving at the keyboard, he can be found in the company of his dog, a good book, or getting lost in the woods.