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Brian Ortega off UFC 226; UFC reportedly tried to make Edgar vs. Stephens interim title fight

An interim featherweight title fight that doesn’t even involve Brian Ortega? This nearly happened.

MMA: UFC 205-Edgar vs Stephens Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

With UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway pulling out of the UFC 226 co-main event vs. Brian Ortega, officials were scrambling to see what they could book in its place. According to ESPN’s Brett Okamoto, there was a totally out of left field idea that nearly materialized: an interim title between Frankie Edgar and Jeremy Stephens.

Edgar does not have a fight scheduled, whereas Stephens is preparing for Jose Aldo at UFC on FOX 30 in Calgary on July 28th. This would’ve been a rematch of their three-round bout at UFC 205, which Edgar won by unanimous decision, but not without surviving a head kick knockdown from Stephens.

Had this gone through, it would’ve been the fourth interim title created for the featherweight division in just three years. If you’re wondering why on earth Ortega wouldn’t be a part of this interim title picture, it’s because he reportedly declined to face Stephens so he could wait for Holloway to recover from his “concussion-like symptoms.”

So with Holloway and Ortega both off the July 7th card, UFC 226 will proceed with eleven fights, and only one championship bout, the heavyweight superfight between Stipe Miocic and Daniel Cormier.