UFC boss wants heav­ier fighter

White says Toronto card could mark last fight for Hol­loway as a feather­weight

Cape Breton Post - - SPORTS - BY NEIL DAVID­SON

What­ever the out­come of Satur­day’s UFC 231 main event be­tween feather­weight cham­pion Max (Blessed) Hol­loway and chal­lenger Brian (T-City) Ortega, UFC pres­i­dent Dana White says it could be Hol­loway’s last out­ing at 145 pounds.

White said the weight cut is too se­vere for the Hawai­ian fighter, who has bat­tled a va­ri­ety of health is­sues this year around fight time.

“I didn’t want him to fight at 145 (pounds) again, I wanted him to fight at 155 (light­weight),” White said in an in­ter­view. “There’s a lot of risk - to him, to us, to every­body.”

But Hol­loway (19-3-0) wanted to face Ortega (14-0-0 with one no con­test).

“I wanted him to move up to 155. I be­lieve af­ter this fight - win, lose or draw - he will,” said White.

“And I will be push­ing him hard,” he added.

Hol­loway made weight Fri­day at 144.5 pounds, tweet­ing a photo of him on the scales with a fin­ger to his lips as if si­lenc­ing the doubters. Ortega was 144.75.

The cham­pion had weighed 161 pounds on Mon­day, hav­ing no doubt al­ready shed weight. Fight­ing at 155 would have been a breeze.

“You think these guys have to be tough to fight? You have to be tough to cut weight, man,” said White.

The two 145-pounders were orig­i­nally slated to meet at UFC 226 in July, but Hol­loway was forced to with­draw at the last minute due to what was thought to be “con­cus­sion-like symp­toms.”

Doc­tors have been un­able to de­ter­mine what the prob­lem was.

“I’m pretty sure he did not have a con­cus­sion,” said White. “It had to be as­so­ci­ated with weight cut.”

An an­kle in­jury had forced Hol­loway (19-3-0) out of a March bout against for­mer light­weight cham­pion Frankie (The An­swer) Edgar at UFC 222. Ortega filled in for Hol­loway, win­ning by spec­tac­u­lar first-round TKO.

Hol­loway also missed out on a short-no­tice fight with cur­rent light­weight cham­pion Khabib Nur­magome­dov at UFC 223 in April (af­ter Tony Fer­gu­son with­drew with a knee in­jury), pulling out dur­ing his weight cut.

At 27, Hol­loway is al­ready a vet­eran of 18 UFC fights and has won his last 12 bouts since an Au­gust 2013 loss to Conor Mc­Gre­gor. A slick vol­ume striker, he has av­er­aged land­ing 6.2 sig­nif­i­cant strikes per minute over his UFC ca­reer, ac­cord­ing to FightMet­ric.

The cham­pion has not been taken down since a Au­gust 2014 win over Clay Col­lard, who landed one of 10 take­down at­tempts. Since then, Hol­loway has re­pelled all 27 take­downs at­tempted in his last nine bouts.

That has kept the fight on the feet where Hol­loway is able to con­trol dis­tance and then over­whelm his op­po­nents. He is com­ing off back-to-back wins over iconic feather­weight Jose Aldo, leav­ing the for­mer cham­pion dazed, blood­ied and bat­tered.

But Ortega, the No. 1 con­tender, is an ac­com­plished black belt in Brazil­ian jiu-jitsu who does not need to get his op­po­nent on the ground (his take­down ac­cu­racy is only 14 per cent). Cub Swan­son learned that the hard way last De­cem­ber when he al­lowed Ortega to grab his neck in a stand­ing clinch.

Ortega then jumped guard, launch­ing his feet up to at­tach him­self to Swan­son like a pret­zel in a guil­lo­tine choke, be­fore us­ing a foot to push off the fence and tighten his vise-like grip around Swan­son’s neck to force the tap.

While seven of his 14 wins are by sub­mis­sion, Ortega is no onet­rick pony.

He handed Edgar the first stop­page loss of his ca­reer with a wicked up­per­cut that ac­tu­ally lifted him off his feet.

The 27-year-old Ortega is also durable, with four third-round stop­pages in the UFC.

CP PHOTO

UFC pres­i­dent Dana White, cen­tre, watches as feather­weight cham­pion Max Hol­loway, left, and con­tender Brian Ortega face off at a press con­fer­ence in Toronto on Wed­nes­day.

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