McGregor, Holm top bill as UFC grows in Vegas

Fri Mar 4, 2016 2:29pm EST
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By Philip O'Connor

LAS VEGAS (Reuters) - Conor McGregor vows to build the UFC into a billion-dollar business and Holly Holm makes her first defense of the title she won in spectacular fashion from Ronda Rousey as mixed martial arts grabs the spotlight in the Nevada desert.

Despite the fact that Rafael dos Anjos was forced to pull out of his lightweight title bout with McGregor on Saturday, the UFC is still expecting a bumper weekend as the Irishman instead steps up two divisions to battle Nate Diaz at welterweight.

The cancellation of the title fight with dos Anjos should have dealt a serious blow to ticket and pay-per-view sales for Saturday's UFC 196.

Instead, the decision by the cocky, charismatic McGregor to step up to welterweight to fight Diaz has opened up a myriad of possible title shots.

If McGregor wins he will be well-placed to challenge welterweight champion Robbie Lawler; if he loses, there is always the dos Anjos belt at lightweight up for grabs.

Adding to the excitement is the return to the octagon by Holm, who caused one of the UFC's greatest upsets when she sensationally knocked out previously undefeated Rousey to snatch the world bantamweight title from her last November.

Holm makes her first defense of that title against Nevada-based Miesha Tate, with Rousey waiting in the wings for a shot at taking her title back.

With professional boxing seemingly stagnant, and intrigue stretching across the divisions of the UFC, the stage is set for continued growth in mixed martial arts.   Continued...

Feb 28, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Holly Holm (blue gloves) reacts after her fight against Raquel Pennington (red gloves) during their women's bantamweight bout at UFC 184 at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports - RTR4RL8Y