Speaking to the media backstage at UFC Lincoln on Saturday, Ortega confirmed a report from MMAjunkie that an offer has been made for him to challenge Holloway for the UFC featherweight championship in December, potentially at UFC 231 in Toronto. Pen has not not been put to paper yet, but Ortega expects that it’s only a matter of time before the contracts are signed.
“Nothing is official,” Ortega said. “Trust me, I’m always the kind of guy, until I sign the contract I’m the first one to post it out there.
“But there’s ears in the game who hear things and yeah, it’s true. We got the call and they offered us to fight in December. I said yes. I think they’re pushing for Toronto, so December is up in the air and I’m sure Max received the same call. I haven’t heard anything from his side yet, but it looks like it’s going to happen.”
Ortega joked that his only issue with taking the Dec. 8 date was that he wasn’t sure if Canada would allow some of his “homies from the hood” to make it across the border and attend the show due to their checkered pasts. But even walking into the Scotiabank Arena (formerly the Air Canada Center) without backup, the same venue where Holloway won an interim title two years ago, Ortega isn’t worried.
His primary concern is capitalizing on the title opportunity that he’s earned with six finishes in six UFC appearances (excluding a submission win over Mike De La Torre that was overturned when Ortega tested positive for drostanolone). In March, he knocked out former lightweight champion and perennial featherweight contender Frankie Edgar inside of a round to secure his shot at Holloway.
Given that they’re both well under the age of 30, Ortega predicted that he and Holloway will fight more than once, and that their first meeting could set the tone for a classic rivalry.
“‘Fight of the Year’, to top the year off,” Ortega said. “You have two guys — I’ve said this before, I’m a fan of him as well, I’m a fan of the sport. This is the fight. He fought Aldo, I fought Frankie, we fought two veterans, right? And now we have two hungry guys who are young at the top of the game.
“One has the belt, and one’s undefeated and trying to take that from him, who’s been finishing everyone. I’m not trying to get a decision so I don’t have to say much.”
Ortega added that he has no regrets about not accepting a short-notice fight with Jeremy Stephens at UFC 226 in July. That opportunity materialized when the first Ortega-Holloway booking fell through due to Holloway being diagnosed with concussion-like symptoms during fight week, and Ortega was criticized by UFC president Dana White for choosing to pass on Stephens.
That bout would possibly have been for an interim title, which Ortega considered to be a step back from the undisputed title shot that he had already been booked for. He feels justified now in waiting for the Holloway fight to be re-booked and wants there to be no doubt who the champion is should he defeat Holloway.
“I want the real title,” Ortega said. “I can’t express it enough that I want to fight for the real title. Interim title, from what I’ve seen — you know what I’m saying, I don’t have to say much words. People get it and then they take it away from them in a month. I just don’t want to be that person. I have nothing against them who earned their shot and took a fight on short notice, all my respect to them.
“But I want something they cannot take away from me, at least the UFC can’t. If someone’s going to take it from me it’s going to have to be an opponent. And that’s what I want.”
Watch the full UFC Lincoln media scrum below: