Brian Ortega went into last week expecting to fight Max Holloway for the UFC featherweight title. He arrived in Las Vegas, began his weight cut and participated in open workouts at MGM Grand last Wednesday, to a rousing ovation.
A few hours later, though, things went sideways. Holloway’s team released a statement to ESPN saying the featherweight champ had concussion-like symptoms and he would be unable to fight on the UFC 226 card.
Ortega was left without his planned foe. UFC president Dana White said Thursday at a pre-fight press conference that the UFC attempted to get Jeremy Stephens to fill-in on short notice and fight Ortega, but Ortega turned down the fight. Fans booed inside the Pearl at the Palms when White said that.
In an Instagram post, Ortega finally addressed his decision to stand pat and not take a fight against anyone but Holloway, especially since he has already done everything possible to earn a title shot.
“I’m a Businessman, a company man, but I’m no yes man,” Ortega said. “Watching the fights last night knowing I could have been performing for all of you truly took a toll on me. I stand by my decision.”
Ortega, 27, is one of the most promising up-and-coming fighters in all of the UFC. He went on to say he gets it if fans are upset at him for not fighting someone like Stephens.
“Thank you to all of you who showed up to support and respected my decision,” Ortega said. “For those of you who don’t agree with me I completely understand and promise to give you guys the show of your life when I fight for the title.”
The UFC also tried to put together Stephens against Frankie Edgar for an interim featherweight title on three days notice, but Edgar’s family nipped that in the bud, White said.
Meanwhile, Holloway’s future is uncertain. White said at the UFC 226 press conference that he expects him not to be back any time soon.