LAS VEGAS — Holly Holm could have kicked back and prepared for the rematch while Ronda Rousey regroups from the beating Holm gave her four months ago.

Conor McGregor could have played it safe and waited for another title fight after Rafael Dos Anjos dropped out of their bout last week.

Instead, Holm and McGregor eagerly accepted matchups at UFC 196 that more cautious champions would have avoided.

Their hunger to fight allowed the UFC to create a blockbuster pay-per-view card on Saturday night headlined by two of its biggest stars taking needless risks.

“I’m here because I’m passionate about fighting,” Holm said. “I don’t want to do anything because it’s more strategic. I just want to fight. ”

Holm (10-0) takes on veteran title contender Miesha Tate (17-5) for the bantamweight belt shortly before McGregor (19-2) faces brawler Nate Diaz (19-10) in a non-title welterweight bout – 25 pounds heavier than the usual limit for McGregor, the UFC’s featherweight king.

Neither champ needed to take the fights they’re facing, but neither betrays any sign of worry about stepping into the MGM Grand Garden Arena cage. The fans appreciate it: Thousands lined up outside hours before Friday’s weigh-in for a card that ranks among the UFC’s hottest tickets in recent years.

Holm spent the past few months in a whirlwind of publicity and attention after her stunning head-kick knockout of Rousey. But when Rousey decided she couldn’t fight again until fall, Holm agreed to a showdown with Tate, a gritty wrestler who hasn’t lost since Rousey beat her for the second time in 2013.

“I feel like this is a really tough fight for me, but what else am I supposed to be doing here?” Holm asked. “I want to fight all the girls that are the best, because that’s what makes the best victory.”

When Holm dethroned Rousey, she cleared a path for McGregor to rise atop the sport. The Irishman with a 15-fight winning streak seized that chance with both fists, winning the 145-pound title with a 13-second knockout of Jose Aldo in December.

And while Holm and Tate are willing promoters of their fight, nobody can match McGregor’s showmanship. His presence on a card guarantees huge attention and revenue.

“You’re like a gazelle,” McGregor said to Diaz. “I’m a lion in there, and I’m going to eat you alive. Your little gazelle friends are going to be staring through the cage looking at your carcass getting eaten alive, and they can do nothing..”

Holm and Tate just sat there and grinned.

“They’re over here flipping each other off under the table, and Holly and I are making each other friendship bracelets,” Tate said. “I’m having a great time.”

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.