Conor McGregor and Holly Holm are expected to co-headline a star-studded UFC 197 card March 5 in Las Vegas.
McGregor, the UFC’s featherweight champion, is moving up to the lightweight division to challenge 155-pound kingpin Rafael Dos Anjos, while Holm will look to defend her women’s bantamweight title against Miesha Tate.
ESPN’s Brett Okamoto and Bleacher Report’s Jeremy Botter were first to confirm the news. The UFC is expected to make an official announcement in the coming days.
McGregor (19-2) won the 145-pound title last month at UFC 194 with a stunning, 13-second knockout of longtime champion Jose Aldo. Following that bout, McGregor’s camp hinted at the possibility of him moving up a weight class before defending the featherweight strap. John Kavanagh, McGregor’s head trainer, even told UFC president Dana White that he never wanted to see McGregor make the weight cut to 145 pounds again.
At the post-fight press conference, McGregor expressed his interest in being a duel-weight champion. Prior to signing with the UFC in early 2013, McGregor held the Cage Warriors Fighting Championship featherweight and lightweight titles simultaneously.
Dos Anjos (25-7) has won five in a row and 10 of his last 11 fights. The 31-year-old Brazilian dominated Anthony Pettis last March to win the title and dispatched of Donald Cerrone in 66 seconds on Dec. 19 in his first title defence. In his lead-up to his bout with Cerrone, Dos Anjos warned McGregor about moving up to his division.
“He gets a lot of hype, and he’s a good fighter,” Dos Anjos said. “But if he comes to the lightweight division, he’s going to get hurt.”
Holm, who recently agreed to a contract extension with the promotion, has become one of the faces of the UFC after knocking out Ronda Rousey at UFC 193 in one of the most stunning upsets in MMA history. An immediate rematch with Rousey is what the UFC had originally planned, however Holm did not wish to wait around for Rousey to heal up and finish filming a pair of movies she’s set to star in. White confirmed Wednesday that Holm (10-0) would fight someone else before a rematch with Rousey.
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Tate, ironically enough, was originally scheduled to face Rousey before the UFC bumped her in favour of Holm. Tate (17-5) is a former Strikeforce champion who has won four straight since dropping her first two UFC bouts to Cat Zingano and Rousey.