06 Dec - 
Brian Ortega calls UFC champ Max Holloway 'delirious,' then verbally hugs it out

TORONTO – There’s a lot of mutual respect between UFC featherweight Max Holloway (19-3 MMA, 15-3 UFC) and Brian Ortega (14-0 MMA, 6-0 UFC) – but that didn’t rule out a few verbal sparring sessions at the press conference for Saturday’s UFC 231.

Holloway, who attempts his second title defense after a concussion scare nixed an Ortega fight at UFC 226, reasserted his dominance when asked to evaluate the threat posed by the No. 1 featherweight contender.

“He’s good,” Holloway said. “He’s a dangerous man. But everybody keeps talking about Brian and this and that. Everything the guy did, I did better.

“He’s on, what, a six-fight win streak? I’ve got 12. He beat a champion? I beat two, and I beat one of them twice. At the end of the day, the ‘Blessed’ express is going around in a circle. We lapping you, bro. And I’m younger than you, so congratulations.”

The two haven’t clashed much in the buildup to the fight, and Ortega, who claimed to have his fight contract modified to fight for a title regardless of whether Holloway showed up on Saturday, was hesitant to engage with the champion.

“Sometimes, the best response is no response,” he said.

“Sometimes, you don’t have a response,” Holloway shot back.

“Someone is still delirious,” Ortega responded, and repeated it again when Holloway didn’t catch it.

That was about as close as the two were going to get to a verbal battle. Ortega anticipates there will be more time to talk. With champion and challenger under 30, there’s a strong possibility that no matter what the outcome of Saturday’s fight, they will meet again down the road.

“He ain’t going nowhere, and neither am I,” Ortega said. “And there’s no more room at the top. No matter what happens, I don’t see him spiraling down, and neither do myself. Whatever happens, fall down, get back up, and challenge each other again. So, this is the beginning.”

For now, the two aim to identify the superior fighter at 145 pounds. Holloway is not opposed to staying put in the featherweight division to prove he’s better than Ortega. Despite a rough weight cut to 145, he said he’ll follow UFC President Dana White’s recommendation to stay put or chase pound-for-pound glory.

“If it’s me staying down and defending it 10 times, then I’ll defend it 10 times,” Holloway said. ‘If I got to fight my good friend, the ‘daddest man on the planet,’ (UFC heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier), let me know. I’m ready.”

Ortega joked that with his love of carne asada and Holloway’s of Hawaiian delicacy laulau, food could bring them together in a new division. But having lost his first golden opportunity, the challenger just wants the champ to show up. And preferably show up healthy.

“At the end of the day, I really do care about your health and how you are and how you’re doing,” Ortega said. “I know you’ve got a son. (Expletive) aside, I know we’re fighting and all that, but I do hope he’s all right. To me, it ain’t cool if you step in there and you’re not physically all right, or something is going on. For me, I wouldn’t want me to step in there, I wouldn’t want him to step in there, especially you’ve got a family. I’ve got my family.”

“I did worry about him,” Ortega added before looking across the dais. “I pray for you, I swear to god. We’re going to give you guys the show you guys deserve, and nothing’s going to happen.”

As he said that, Ortega knocked on wood. The challenger doesn’t want Holloway going anywhere.

For more on UFC 231, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.