The MMA Gods struck again earlier this week when UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway — who was scheduled to defend his title against challenger Brian Ortega in the co-main event of this Saturday night’s UFC 226 megacard in Las Vegas — was removed from the event due to health concerns. A combination of a concussion and cutting weight was the culprit, and with UFC 226 losing its co-main event at the last minute, having a replacement fight booked on super-short notice just wasn’t feasible, leaving UFC 226 without arguably its most-anticipated bout on a card full of them.
Yes, it sucks that Holloway was forced from the card. It sucks for him because he won’t get paid to fight, it sucks for Ortega because he lost his title shot and his pay day, it sucks for the fans who were looking forward to watching the fight, and it sucks for the UFC, who will no doubt take hit on its pay-per-view numbers due to the loss of this bout. Yet, it was absolutely the right call to pull Holloway from the card. He simply wasn’t fit enough to fight, and if we truly do care about the health and safety of the athletes in the sport, then no one should have a problem with the UFC pulling Holloway from the card, even though it sucks one of the best featherweight title fights ever isn’t going to happen this weekend.
That doesn’t mean that the UFC doesn’t still have plans to re-book Holloway vs. Ortega in the near future. According to reports, the UFC is considering re-booking the bout for UFC 227, which goes down August 4 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. UFC president Dana White has already thrown cold water on the reports, saying this fight won’t happen anytime soon, but the fact that report is out there is concerning. After all, where there’s smoke there’s fire, and White is known not to always be completely honest with the media.
The card is only a month away, and even though it’s a stacked card, I just can’t see Holloway and Ortega being considered for it being a good idea. Even if Holloway can theoretically be ready for that date, the fact he was pulled from UFC 226 due to concussion-like symptoms is extremely concerning to me, and I don’t know why the UFC is in such a rush to re-book him so soon. Why not just wait for a bit, and then book for the fight UFC 228 in September, or even for a card in October? And even that might be too soon. Ortega, the rightful No. 1 contender, seems content with waiting, so the UFC should too. I understand the promotion wants to beef up its upcoming PPV cards, but if Holloway isn’t healthy then it makes no sense to even consider when his next fight will take place.
If anything, the blame falls on the UFC for not having a backup fighter ready to weigh-in for UFC 226. The UFC had Alexander Volkov ready and standing by to weigh-in just in case of an emergency in the Stipe Miocic vs. Daniel Cormier heavyweight bout, and Thiago Santos weighed in just in case of an injury to Israel Adesanya or Brad Tavares in the TUF 27 Finale main event. But for whatever reason, the UFC didn’t have a standby fighter ready and waiting in case of an injury to Holloway or Ortega, even though it’s a fact that Holloway has pulled out of his last two fights at UFC 222 and UFC 223 against Frankie Edgar and Khabib Nurmagomedov, respectively. The UFC should have been more proactive about the situation, and instead White is out there throwing Ortega under the bus for not accepting a short-notice fight against a dangerous opponent in Jeremy Stephens. It’s not Ortega’s fault Holloway isn’t fit enough to fight, and it’s not Holloway’s that he got hurt either. It’s part of the game. But the UFC should have had someone ready and waiting. Instead, the UFC lost a title fight, and now the promotion looks like it wants to rush Holloway back and have him fight again next month.
It’s an awful thing that happened to Max Holloway because this fight with Ortega was going to be amazing, but injuries are part of the fight game. But instead of rushing to re-book this fight, the UFC should take all the time in the world to wait for Max Holloway to be completely healthy and ready to compete before the bout is re-booked. And the fact the UFC was considering an interim title fight between Stephens and Frankie Edgar is just ridiculous. We get it, UFC, you lost a big fight and your PPV numbers are going to suffer. But don’t go and make matters worse by rushing Holloway back. Let him take his time. And don’t go and hurt Ortega, because it’s not his fault that Holloway got hurt and he shouldn’t have to fight someone extremely dangerous like Stephens on short notice just to help the UFC help prop up its summer megacard. Let Max Holloway heal up, and when he’s ready, then re-book the fight. Any real fan would understand that, so there’s no need to rush things.
Do you think Max Holloway should be left out of action for as long as possible?