The co-main event of UFC 222 this past weekend saw “T-City” become the first man to finish Frankie Edgar, a sensational fight that ended when Ortega landed a cage-shaking uppercut that left the former lightweight champion and two-time featherweight title challenger flat on his back.
With the win, Ortega improved to 6-0 with one no-contest in the UFC, with all of those wins coming by way of knockout or submission.
Edgar was originally supposed to meet Holloway in a title fight at the event, but he instead faced Ortega when Holloway withdrew due to injury. Having definitively put Edgar away, Ortega claimed the No. 1 contender spot, and with the wheels already in motion for the Holloway matchup, the 27-year-old is confident that their clash will be the biggest at 145 pounds since Conor McGregor went head-to-head with longtime champion Jose Aldo back in Dec. 2015.
“I love (Holloway’s) style. People said it and I’m saying it again, I feel like this is one of the biggest fights in the UFC featherweight division since Conor and Aldo,” Ortega told Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour on Monday. “It’s going to be a great pay-per-view, you’ve got two young guys who are hungry, I feel like we have similar backgrounds. He’s always stayed with his team from the beginning, so did I. He’s got a group of friends, I’ve got my group of friends. He loves surfing, I love surfing.
“Hawaiian vs. Mexican, we both like to scrap. I love this fight. These are the fights that I look forward to and I’m happy that I’m going to be able to be there for a full 25 minutes this time and fighting for the world title.”
While contracts still need to be ironed out, Holloway expressed interest in making the fight happen in the summer after he’s recovered from his injuries, simply tweeting out “@UFC 226.” That pay-per-view event is currently scheduled for July 7 and already features a headlining heavyweight championship bout between titleholder Stipe Miocic and light heavyweight king Daniel Cormier.
This past week, Ortega told UFC Unfiltered that he spoke to White and that the boss is guaranteeing “100 percent” that Ortega will be next to challenge Holloway. But Ortega doesn’t plan to rest on his laurels now that his championship opportunity is secure.
“It’s so surreal, but I’m not celebrating until I get that belt,” he said on UFC Unfiltered. “I’m staying with my blinders on and work ethic still in.”