From the sounds of it, UFC San Antonio almost got a banger of a featherweight matchup. According to a report from ESPN’s Ariel Helwani, a showdown between recent title challenger Brian Ortega and long-time contender Jeremy Stephens was briefly in the works for the card, but the fight was scratched due to the former’s lingering injuries.
“There was some talk of booking Brian Ortega vs. Jeremy Stephens as the headliner for the July 20 card in San Antonio, but I’m told Ortega isn’t healthy enough to agree to a fight at the moment,” Helwani wrote on ESPN. “I do like that fight much better for Ortega than the rumored Zabit Magomedsharipov bout. Ease him back in.”
As Helwani suggests, Brian Ortega has also recently been linked to a fight with the streaking Zabit Magomedsharipov. Evidently, however, he’s still not healthy enough to commit to a matchup.
Ortega’s lingering injuries were all sustained in his December war with UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway, which he lost via doctor stoppage. This loss to the champion marked the first setback of his mixed martial arts career.
Prior to this loss, the California native picked up victories over stars like Frankie Edgar, Cub Swanson, Renato Moicano, Clay Guida and Thiago Tavares — all by knockout or submission.
Jeremy Stephens, meanwhile, is currently on a two-fight skid, having recently come up short to Jose Aldo and the aforementioned Magomedsharipov by TKO and decision respectively. Prior to these setbacks, the featherweight knockout artist was on a three-fight streak composed of violent wins over Gilbert Melendez, Doo Ho Choi and Josh Emmett.
Who do you want to see Brian Ortega fight when he’s healthy? Do you think Jeremy Stephens is a sensible matchup for him? Join the conversation in the comments section down below.
This article first appeared on BJPENN.COM on 6/3/2019.