LOS ANGELES — Brian Ortega said he was doing a television show with Max Holloway in Canada about two months ago now when Holloway said on air that he still didn’t know what the health issues were that forced him out of UFC 226.
Holloway was supposed to defend his UFC featherweight title against Ortega on that card in July, but the champion withdrew three days out of the event due to health concerns. Holloway seemed odd all week to that point and had already been to the hospital, which came out later. Holloway was even called out for slurring his speech and looking half asleep by Michael Bisping on UFC Tonight.
At the time, UFC president Dana White said Holloway would be out a long time. The official line from Holloway team was “concussion-like symptoms.”
Yet, Holloway has made a reported full recovery and will fight Ortega in the main event of UFC 231 on Saturday in Toronto. Ortega said Monday at a media lunch that he still has questions and concerns about Holloway’s health heading into fight week.
“Both of us did a show in Canada and that was the first time I heard it,” Ortega said. “He was like, ‘We still don’t know what it is.’ I looked over during the show like, What the f*ck do you mean you don’t know what it is? I was like, Are you serious? And we’re scheduled already not too far from now. I don’t know. I pray for the guy and I hope he’s good.”
Ortega said if the fight ends up getting called off due to Holloway’s health, it probably won’t happen until after Ortega arrives in Toronto on Tuesday. There are worries there.
“He’s made it all the way through his training camp, he’s always successful with that,” Ortega said. “It’s just these last … I don’t know if the [weight] cutting triggers something. I don’t know what it is. He doesn’t know what it is. But there is a concern there. Obviously, he is the best and I want to fight him. That’s why he’s got the belt around him. For me to fight him, it would secure my name at the top as well.”
Renato Moicano will be in Toronto this week as an alternate, just in case something goes sideways. Ortega said if the belt is on the line, he’ll be fighting Saturday regardless of opponent.
“We’ll fight whoever we have to fight,” Ortega said. “At that point, if it’s for the belt and they say that Max can’t fight, I can’t do that to the fans twice. Regardless on Saturday, I’m gonna fight no matter who it is.”
For the most part, Ortega said he doesn’t think the UFC would let Holloway fight if his health was in danger. But on the other hand, he doesn’t want anything unnecessarily bad to happen to Holloway in the Octagon. Holloway has been known to have very difficult weight cuts to 145 pounds. He was pulled from a short-notice fight with Khabib Nurmagomedov for the 155-pound title in April by the New York State Athletic Commission (NYSAC) because of how he looked during the weight cut.
“They did all the tests, right?” Ortega said “They evaluated, they made sure he was healthy. The UFC, being the name that they are, I don’t think they’re gonna let someone go in there if they’re not in the right state. What does kind of seem a little bit off is the the fact that they still can’t seem to figure out what’s going on. That’s kind of where it’s like, well are you guys being professional with this? Or do you guys really want to push this fight? I don’t know.
“My concern is always for him. I said it before, even though we’re fighting, I still have respect and love for the guy. He has a family, he has a kid and I don’t want to be the guy that triggers something bad to happen. I wouldn’t like to live with myself with that.”
Ortega said he and Holloway would most likely be fast friends if circumstances were different.
“When I seen him and the way that he was talking and everything, low key I was like, I could see myself partying with you,” Ortega said. “I could see myself hanging out with you. He’s from Hawaii, I have a lot of love for Hawaiians, we go there all the time, surf and everything. I even said it before, it’s gonna suck. Because you have two guys — this guy is dope, I consider myself a cool person. But we have nowhere to go, though. It’s either you vacate it and you move up a weight class and we keep doing this, or we have what we have now, which is we fight each other.”