Brian Ortega’s career took a huge hit when he suffered his first defeat against Max Holloway, and he’s keen for redemption.
Ahead of his championship bout with Alexander Volkanovski, Ortega was targeting a rematch with the UFC’s top featherweight contender, but things didn’t go according to plan. He suffered a unanimous decision defeat against the Australian champ, which could put a rematch with Holloway in doubt.
Before his defeat, Ortega was bullish about his chances of facing Holloway again. “I’m not trying to speak ahead or get past Volkanovski, because he beat Max twice,” he is quoted by Sports Keeda as saying to TMZ Sports. “I’m not here to already start celebrating, but that would be ideal. I’m a better person, better fighter, than I was when I fought him and watching his last fight, and so is he.”
Holloway was certainly the better fighter at UFC 231, where he scored a technical knockout over Ortega. It was the headline fight of the night, after originally being shifted from UFC 226. The defeat forced Ortega into a two-year hiatus, broken only by his victory over “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung.
As for Holloway, he had already had three defeats on his record, notably against Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier, and just four months after beating Ortega, he was back in the ring with Poirier. He lost that one, missing the chance to become interim lightweight champion, but three months later, he brushed aside Frankie Edgar and defended his featherweight belt. However, like Ortega, he couldn’t beat Volkanovski, losing his belt in Dec. 2019 and failing to win it back seven months later.
In Jan. 2021, his “Fight of the Night” performance against Calvin Kattar did win him some pride back, and it seems as though Ortega could be back relatively soon, despite his recent defeat. However, much rested on Holloway’s next fight against Yair Rodriguez. The 29-year-old was the overwhelming favorite in the latest betting odds with Coral to defeat Rodriguez, who hadn’t fought since 2019. The Mexican fighter had been the victim of an ankle injury and suffered a recent ban. When a return was scheduled against Holloway earlier this year, he withdrew injured.
There was an expectation Holloway would defeat Rodriguez, an outcome that could cast doubt on Ortega’s chances of exacting revenge. That’s exactgly what happened in a five-round “Fight of the Night” war. Ortega’s clearly keen to add the scalp of Holloway to his record, and move away from the brace of defeats that have damaged his reputation, but Dana White may not see it as a big draw. A third fight between Holloway and Volkanovski seems favored, and the Hawaiian is now sitting as the number-one featherweight contender and seeking another shot at gold.
“Max, I guarantee you he doesn’t have to take this fight. And he’s still going to go take it,” Volkanovski told MMA Weekly. “He wants that number one spot. He wants to earn it. It shows you what type of guy he is. How can you not respect that?”
Volkanovski suggested that the third fight is very much in his mind, not just Holloway’s. “Stylistically, I think Max is a nightmare for him (Rodriguez). I’m expecting Max to go out there and do his thing, and we’re going to be rerunning that trilogy, and Dana’s gonna pay us good money for it.”
Holloway beating Rodriguez, and Volkanovski is ready for a trilogy fight. This leaves Ortega out in the cold, and whilst he wants a Holloway rematch to boost his flagging career, he might have to fight his way through the challengers, before he gets his shot at redemption.
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