It’s been almost a year since UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway stepped inside the cage to defend his title. All three of his scheduled matchups in the early part of the year had been scrapped due to health issues, including his title defense against Brian Ortega at UFC 226 last July.
Ortega previously stated that he will be fighting for the title with or without Holloway. During a media scrum at UFC 229, the undefeated challenger confirmed that the UFC actually has a replacement fighter on deck.
“They (UFC) talked about replacement,” Ortega said. “They said they have a replacement; they haven’t said the name. I don’t know who it is.”
“Like I said, I don’t care. As long as it’s for the real featherweight title, then count on me on being there.”
Ortega had also expressed interest in facing lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, during UFC 223, and at UFC 229 as a possible replacement for Conor McGregor. For him, it would be a grappler vs. grappler matchup that the MMA world has not seen before.
“That would’ve been the matchup,” Ortega said of a potential fight with Khabib. “And I wish that would’ve happened. Because as an MMA fan, I love the matchup of a wrestler with a top game versus a jiu-jitsu (fighter) with a bottom game, and we’re both deadly. Him from the top, me from the bottom. It’s a war.”
“I feel like we both do great on the stand-up, and then when we get to the ground, the fans are gonna get a different type of show that is not normally introduced to in the sport of MMA. Because usually, everyone bangs it out, or if it goes to the ground, becomes boring. I don’t see this fight being boring no matter what, but we’ll see what happens in the future.”
UFC 231 takes place on December 8th in Toronto, Canada. It will be co-headlined by a women’s flyweight fight between old rivals Valentina Shevchenko and Joanna Jedrzejczyk.