Tony Ferguson pulled out of his scheduled bout with Khabib Nurmagomedov on April 1st. Unfortunately, it wasn’t an April Fool’s Day joke.
However, UFC featherweight champion Max “Blessed” Holloway agreed to take on the unenviable task of fighting Nurmagomedov on just a week’s notice at UFC 223 for the UFC lightweight belt – seizing his chance to become a simultaneous two-weight champion.
That’s despite Holloway recently suffering an ankle injury, forcing him out of his title defence at UFC 222 against Frankie Edgar earlier in March.
Instead, Brain “T-City” Ortega took on Edgar and emerged as a serious contender upon his stunning knockout win over New Jersey native Edgar. As a result, it was expected Holloway’s next fight would be to defend his championship against the surging Ortega.
While Holloway has just been awarded the bout with Nurmagomedov, it emerged that Ortega was also willing to forgo his featherweight title fight to take on the unbeaten Russian.
For the record, Dana called me yesterday to see if I would step in against Khabib since Max hadn’t responded yet. I said yes. Eventually, Max replied and Dana gave him the fight. If all goes according to plan, I’ll get my turn – at both of them.
— Brian Ortega (@BrianTcity) April 2, 2018
As always with the internet, there were plenty of people who doubted Ortega’s claims – after all, wanting a fight with Nurmagomedov is a lot easier said than done. However, UFC President Dana White later corroborated Ortega’s willingness to fight the Dagestani mauler.
It may be Holloway’s fighter nickname, but we truly are ‘blessed’ by the UFC featherweight division.
With the welterweight queue of contenders piling up with little sign of moving any time soon, as well as the lightweight title picture being murkier than ever, those at 145lbs are a breath of fresh air for the UFC and the promotion’s fanbase.
Win or lose, Holloway will earn a lot of respect on Saturday, as should Nurmagomedov for accepting a late change in opponent. Meanwhile, Ortega is showing even more reasons why he is a man to look out for in 2018.