05 Dec - 
Ortega puzzled by Holloway’s mystery illness: ‘I pray for the guy and hope he’s good’

As champion and challenger enter fight week for UFC 231, Brian Ortega admits he’s concerned about Max Holloway’s mysterious health issue and ability to make it to fight night.

2018 has not been a good year for Max Holloway. The UFC featherweight champion entered the January on the back of two dominant victories, securing his spot as the undisputed title holder in the 145 lb division. After picking up the interim belt against Anthony Pettis at UFC 206, Holloway beat former champion – and divisional GOAT – Jose Aldo twice, to both unify and defend the belt.

Since then, however, it’s been one piece of bad news after another. A title fight against Frankie Edgar, planned for March, had to be scrapped due to a Holloway leg injury. Then a last minute chance to fight for the lightweight title fell by the wayside, when Holloway was removed from the card due to the extreme nature of his short notice weight cut. And finally, a planned fight against Brian Ortega – for UFC 226 in July – had to be cancelled when it became known that Holloway was suffering from “concussion-like symptoms.”

It’s that last one that’s still a concern, mostly because Holloway still isn’t sure exactly what caused the symptoms, or if they may return.

The champion is once again booked to fight Ortega this Saturday, December 8th, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. But, in a recent interview, the challenger revealed that even he’s concerned about the fact that Holloway’s mysterious illness remains un-diagnosed (transcript via MMA Fighting).

“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.”

“He’s made it all the way through his training camp, he’s always successful with that,” Ortega continued. “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.”

And while Ortega says he’s focused on winning his first UFC title shot against whoever he ends up standing across from on fight night – if Holloway once again has to be removed from the card – that doesn’t mean he isn’t concerned for the health of the champion.

“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.”

In the meantime, Brazilian top contender Renato Moicano is waiting in the wings. The Constrictor Team fighter had been scheduled to face Mirsad Bektic in what may have been a potential title eliminator. However, a late notice injury to Bektic has Moicano playing the role of replacement fighter, in case either Holloway or Ortega don’t make it to the event. Hopefully, whatever the result of the actual fight ends up being, Holloway’s year will end with at least one trip to the Octagon.