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Max Holloway talks injury that led to UFC 222 withdrawal, ‘can’t wait’ to fight Brian Ortega

Max Holloway was devastated with having to withdraw from UFC 222 but is looking forward to defending his title against a fresh contender.

It was the first time Max Holloway had ever had to pull out of a fight, and the Hawaiian says it was ‘a hard pill to swallow’ accepting his powerlessness to injury at UFC 222.

Holloway, the reigning featherweight champion, was gearing up to defend his title against Frankie Edgar when an undisclosed ankle injury ruined his championship plans and forced him to withdraw from the UFC 222 main event.

Speaking to Ariel Helwani on a recent edition of The MMA Hour, ‘Blessed’ says he tried everything to convince the doctors to let him fight, but the decision was ultimately out of his control.

“It was difficult, man. It was a tough pill to swallow, for sure,” Holloway said, per MMA Fighting’s Shaun Al-Shatti. “I’ve never, ever pulled out of a fight in my life, not even in my amateur days. And for the first time to be that? So much history was on line.

“Things happen though. Things happen for a reason and this injury popped up and it wasn’t my day. It was a tough pill to swallow, man. I was trying to find every single way out of this, trying to talk to the doctors and this and that and figure out a way so we could still go out there and fight, but it wasn’t budging, man. They had the last call, they had the final call — they called it, and it was definitely a hard one.”

Surging featherweight contender Brian Ortega stepped in as his replacement and, to the surprise of everyone, knocked out Edgar in the first round.

Holloway, 26, was surprised with the knockout but says Ortega is ‘undefeated for a reason’ and ‘can’t wait’ to defend his title against one of the most dangerous contenders in the featherweight division.

“Ortega is undefeated for a reason,” he said. “He’s good. He had knockouts on his record. I thought if he finished [Edgar], it was going to be a submission, because he’s pretty [skilled] there too and he’s super good on the ground. So I thought if it was a finish, it’d guaranteed be a submission. But he went out there and did his thing.

“This is a sport. It goes on, it keeps it moving. And I wasn’t mad at all. People keep thinking that Frankie is out of the picture completely. After the Ortega fight, we’ll see what happens. A couple more wins and [Edgar] is back in the discussion again, so I don’t really care. It’s time to move on, it’s time to focus on the next guy up, and that’s Ortega supposedly, so I can’t wait. I’m just ready. I’m ready to fight, man.”

Holloway, who trains out of Gracie Technics in Honolulu, is still recovering from injury but is expected to return this Summer, preferably at UFC 226 on July 7. Holloway vs. Ortega hasn’t been made official but expect an announcement in the coming weeks.