When UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway was forced out of the UFC 226 co-main event with concussion-like symptoms, it left his opponent, undefeated challenger Brian Ortega, without a dance partner.
The UFC attempted to rectify this situation by offering surging featherweight knockout artist Jeremy Stephens the chance to step in and fight Ortega for the interim title.
Unfortunately for Stephens, Ortega wasn’t interested in fighting anybody but Holloway, and turned down this short-notice replacement bout.
Speaking on Instagram late on Sunday night, Ortega defended his decision to hold out and wait for Holloway, rather than accept a short-notice fight with Jeremy Stephens. That said, he did admit it pained him to watch UFC 226 from cage-side, knowing that he could have been fighting instead.
“I’m a businessman, a company man, but I’m no yes man,” Ortega explained in his thoughtful post. “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. Thank you to all of you who showed up to support and respected my decision. 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.”
Brian Ortega, who currently sits at a perfect 14-0 (1 NC), has looked unstoppable since joining the UFC, defeating Thiago Tavares by TKO, Diego Brandao by submission, Clay Guida by KO, Renato Moicano by submission, Cub Swanson by submission, and most recently, former lightweight champion Frankie Edgar by knockout. If you weren’t paying attention, those are all stoppages. In his six Octagon bouts, the judges have never been required.
At present, it’s not known when Max Holloway will be ready to fight again. From the sounds of it, though, Ortega could be waiting for his title shot for some time.
“There’s no way that this guy is going to fight anytime soon,” UFC President Dana White said at the UFC 226 pre-fight press conference, shortly after Holloway was forced off the card.
This article first appeared on BJPenn.com on 7/9/2018.