Despite two unbelievably exciting fights, UFC 196, some people say, was actually bad for the sport. Why? Because Holly Holm, who was riding high after dethroning Ronda Rousey in November, lost her first title defense, and Conor McGregor, perhaps the biggest male star in the sport, lost to Nate Diaz, who entered the night having lost three of his previous five fights.
So, was Saturday night a bad night for the UFC?
In a word, no.
“I think it was a very good night for the UFC,” Fox Sports MMA insider Ariel Helwani told Damon Amendolara, who was filling in as host of CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “Short-term, these are the facts: It was their third-highest selling gate ever. Over $8 million in ticket sales. It’s trending to be one of their highest-selling Pay Per Views ever. So short-term, that night – March 5, 2016 in Las Vegas – was a very successful night. Now you think long-term: Okay, Holly Holm lost. Yeah, that stings. But guess what? The woman who beat her, Miesha Tate, has this long-standing rivalry with Ronda Rousey.”
Tate, in fact, pushed Rouse to the third round in December 2013 before ultimately losing on an arm bar. That remains the only three-round fight of Rousey’s career.
“Ronda Rousey beat her twice in the past,” Helwani said. “But now you have this new layer to the feud where it’s Miesha Tate as champion and Ronda potentially coming back to fight her biggest rival. That’s a (great situation) for the UFC, there’s no doubt about it, and I still don’t think it affects the Holly Holm fight all that much if Ronda ever wants to fight Holly again.
McGregor, meanwhile, lost to Diaz in a hard-hitting fight, but the defeat comes with a slight caveat.
“He was fighting 25 pounds heavier,” Helwani said. “He was jumping up two higher weight classes. He was fighting a guy who has a lot of physical advantages over him and he’s still the featherweight champion. And the way in which he dealt with the loss, with class and professionalism, I think, actually gained him more fans.”
Indeed, McGregor, never bashful, made no excuses after the fight. As he says, he’s cocky in his prediction and confident in his preparation, but he’s always humble in victory or defeat. McGregor, who had won 15 straight fights entering Saturday, was a man of his word – even after losing for the first time since November 2010.
“He put up a blueprint as to how to handle a loss, whether you’re an MMA fighter or an athlete in any other sport,” Helwani said. “I think the UFC is going be just fine, and any Monday morning quarterback who wants to jump out of the woodwork and tell you otherwise, in my opinion, is wrong.”