THE LONG AWAITED BOUT between Max Holloway and Brian Ortega is finally about to happen this weekend at UFC 231 in Toronto, Canada; provided nothing goes wrong... yet again.
UFC Featherweight Champion Max Holloway (22-3) was scheduled to face undefeated No. 1 contender Brian Ortega (14-0-1) at UFC 226 back in July, but the champ had to pull out from the fight just 3 days prior to the event, after displaying "concussion-like symptoms" as he began his weight cut for the bout. The UFC couldn't find a replacement opponent for Ortega on such a short notice, so the fight was taken off the card.
This wasn't the first time Holloway had trouble with the weight cut. He famously stepped up to replace Tony Ferguson (who suffered a freak accident just days before the fight) for a UFC Lightweight title fight against Khabib Nurmagomedov, but as he was cutting weight, representatives of the New York State Athletic Commission deemed him medically unfit to continue with the cut, and pulled him from the fight.
Holloway's last fight was in December 2017 when he TKO'd former champ Jose Aldo to defend his belt. It's been a long gap since then. And Brian Ortega, long projected as the prime challenger for the Featherweight belt, has grown wary of the baggage of past disappointments this bout carries.
Speaking to MSL Media, Ortega was asked whether the long build-up meant he was extra prepared to rise to the occasion for his long-awaited UFC title shot, and his answer portrayed mixed feelings,
"I feel like I get better every day so, in a way, yes. I would’ve preferred to fight him already though. Waiting this extra time is tough on my team because they put everything on hold for me to train for fights. We fought at the beginning of the year, got booked for a summer fight and spent the whole time training. When that didn’t happen, we got booked for this fight and my team and I have missed everything this year – birthdays, holidays, special events. So we just want to fight and win the world title. But at the end of the day, I just hope Max is ok. I have a lot of respect for him and look forward to fighting him."
Holloway himself, however, was keen to avoid the topic when asked about his long layoff and the missed bouts earlier this year,
"I like to stay active. My goal is to leave this sport as the best pound for pound fighter on the planet and, to do that, you have to be willing to fight anytime and anywhere. I don’t like having long layoffs so hopefully we can do this fight and then fight again soon."
The weigh-ins for the UFC 231 are just as eagerly awaited by the fans as the night of the fight itself. All eyes will be on Holloway who has the task of successfully making weight and put to bed all speculations about how healthy he can be at the Featherweight limit; something that has raised doubts and concerns from all corners including UFC President Dana White who has said he hopes Holloway will move up to Lightweight after this fight, win or lose.
Just in case something goes wrong in the lead-up to the fight, UFC have signed Renato Moicano (13-1-1) to prepare as an alternate. Moicano has been undergoing a training camp and will weigh in ahead of UFC 231, but will not actually fight unless one of Ortega or Holloway happens to pull out at the last minute for some unforeseen reason.
Ortega, who did not appear 100% confident that Holloway will make it to the fight with his health intact, said he was not thinking much about the reigning champ's cancelled fights or long layoff,
"I look at every fight like the best version of that fighter is going to show up. I want to fight the best Max Holloway he can be and I’ll be prepared to do that on Saturday night."
The main card of UFC 231: Holloway vs Ortega is scheduled to begin at 8:30 am Indian Standard Time on Sunday 9th December, and it will be telecast live and exclusively on Sony TEN 2 as well as Sony TEN 2 HD.