Following months of consternation over his health, UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway saved his belt by making weight Friday for his Saturday UFC 231 main-event title defense against Los Angeles’ Brian Ortega.
Hawaii’s Holloway (19-3) had fallen ill in the days before his past two scheduled fight dates, and he’s been vague about what exactly ailed him before he withdrew from a previously scheduled title defense against the unbeaten Ortega in July.
On Friday, Holloway, pressed his right index finger to his lips as if to quiet doubters and weighed in at 144.5 pounds, one-half pound under the featherweight limit after Ortega made weight at 144 ¾ pounds.
Earlier this week, Holloway vowed he was going to fight.
“I’m good. Everyone keeps on saying it was a concussion thing. We took all these tests. The doctors would’ve told the UFC if it was a weight-cutting thing,” Holloway said. “People will believe what they want to believe … .”
He said his team has launched “an investigation” into his downfall in July, telling another reporter it might’ve been something he ate.
“I’ll be sharp,” said Holloway, who has won 12 consecutive fights dating to a 2013 loss to Conor McGregor. “Why fix something that’s not broken? Some unfortunate events happened. It is what it is. You don’t cry over spilled milk. Don’t worry about it.”
“I had eight weeks for this and I can’t wait to fight again,” Holloway said.
The pre-weigh-in concern was such that UFC President Dana White has said Holloway should fight as a lightweight from now on. White took to assigning a possible replacement fighter, Renato Moicano, to make weight, and promised Ortega’s manager, Ed Soares, that if an Ortega-Moicano rematch happened, it would be for the title.
Ortega’s boxing coach, James Luhrsen, said he and Ortega prepared mainly for Holloway, but did spend time scripting a fight plan for Moicano, whom Ortega defeated by third-round guillotine choke in a July 2017 fight of the night at Honda Center.
“They basically have the same style … it was a plus for us that,” we previously beat Moicano, “and we took his heart,” Luhrsen said. “That’s what Brian’s best at.
“Max is an all-around good fighter, but we have a plan for him. He’s focused on striking. Brian comes from a different background than anyone I know of. He’s got what it takes to be a champion, and I wouldn’t take anything lightly from Brian.”
Holloway is as enthused as the sold-out audience at Scotiabank Arena and pay-per-view buyers.
“This is a fight for the MMA insiders; this fight will be the one people talk about when they say, ‘I wish these two guys could fight … .’ He’s young, I’m young, both in our prime,” Holloway said.
“Some people [were] genuinely concerned, others are because they have a job, and others just want to know stuff … everything I do, I control. I’m happy where I’m at. I’m clear. I just can’t wait, and if people are sleeping on me, it’s time to wake them up.”
Women’s flyweights Valentina Shevchenko and Joanna Jedrzejczyk also made weight for their title fight. Jedrzejczyk previously stood as straw-weight champion before two losses to Rose Namajunas, and Shevchenko has previously lost a bantamweight title bout against champion Amanda Nunes.
The pair fought in Muay Thai competition several years ago, with Shevchenko winning all three bouts.