When undefeated fighter Ronda Rousey faced undefeated fighter Holly Holm in November, Rousey lost in dramatic fashion—by a kick to the head. Speculation immediately erupted over how damaging the loss was to Rousey’s brand and her future in sports. But the match was no loss for the Ultimate Fighting Championship series. Rather, it was a win by every metric.
In July, UFC will surely enjoy another major win—likely its biggest ever. Targeting a July 9 date, UFC president Dana White is planning a rematch between the two prize fighters, the Los Angeles Times first reported.
The bout isn’t completely official yet, but the quick turnaround between November’s fight and the rematch announcement that everyone demanded is a sign that White is putting the UFC’s business interests first—even, potentially, before the preferences of its two premier fighters.
Holm’s manager, Lenny Fresquez, told the L.A. Times he is concerned Rousey will not be ready to fight again by July. “She took a severe beating and I don’t think it’s in her best interest to take the next fight so fast,” he said, adding that he’d rather see Holm defend her newly earned belt against Miesha Tate first. In response, White is basically saying ‘too bad.’ Holm’s next opponent? “It’s Rousey,” said the UFC president.
Can you blame him? UFC 193, which pitted a heavily favored 12-0 Rousey against a 9-0 Holm, “broke every record we’ve ever had, from the venue, to merchandise, to commercial pay-per-view, everything,” White said in the days after the fight. The PPV numbers, he said at the time, were “astronomical” and looked like they would comfortably clear a million buys. One million would put the fight at the 8th-biggest UFC match ever. But UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta said that once all the numbers came in, he expected it to be the second-biggest ever, behind only UFC 100, the Brock Lesnar and Frank Mir fight, which had 1.6 million orders. (It has yet to be reported exactly how many total orders UFC 193 got.)
Away from the television, the fight was a win for everyone involved except Rousey. The event set in-person attendance records for both UFC as well as for Etihad Stadium in Melbourne, Australia. It made a lot of money for several members of Holm’s team, who placed Vegas bets on her at 12-1 odds. It unquestionably boosted Holm’s brand power, and it brought previously unheard-of press attention to the sport. (White specifically mentioned how delighted he was that Holm’s name was a top trending social media topic the day after the fight, which was an NFL Sunday.)
And of course, the fight brought both the winner and loser big money (bigger for Rousey, the sport’s mega-star going into the match). When all was said and done, including bonuses from pay-per-view returns, the former champion pocketed more than $5 million. Holm, meanwhile, who normally makes only $100,000 for a fight, got two $50,000 bonuses for fight of the night and individual performance of the night, according to Fox Sports, plus a Reebok sponsor bonus, bringing her haul to more than $300,000.
This year, UFC has already been on a remarkable tear, and it shows no sign of letting up. The eight UFC pay-per-view events between January and July averaged 65% more orders than the same period in 2014, the blog MMA Fighting reported. The Rousey-Rematch could be like nothing before it. The speed of the UFC rematch announcement is also a sharp contrast to the boxing world, which was criticized for taking too long to get Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao into the ring against each other.
All the pieces are in place for the Rousey-Holm rematch to be the event that not only continues the sport’s current steam but catapults it into its next phase of popularity.
The rematch will be UFC’s 200th event, a nice round number that you can expect the sport to promote heavily, similar to how the NFL has promoted Super Bowl 50. It will happen at a brand new arena in Las Vegas.
For Rousey personally, the rematch will be must-win: she told ESPN the Magazine that if she faces Holm again and loses, “I’ll be done with everything.”
For more on the much-anticipated Rousey-Holm rematch, watch this Fortune video: