UFC fans must be wondering why they can’t have nice things.
On Thursday morning, it was announced that the UFC 226 clash between featherweight champion Max Holloway and surging contender Brian Ortega was being cancelled just three days away from the event due this weekend in Las Vegas.
Holloway was pulled from his title defence after being hospitalised on Monday for concussion-like symptoms before being released the following day.
However, instead of showing signs of recovery, Holloway’s condition was adjudged to be getting worse over time. Wisely, the UFC and Holloway’s team made the tough decision to pull him from the Ortega fight and re-admit him to hospital for further tests.
“Max’s team and UFC staff noticed Max was not normal since late last week,” Holloway’s manager Brian Butler-Au said a statement given to MMA Junkie. “This became obvious to many watching his interviews and public appearances the past few days.”
“Max fought with his team to continue with the fight. He showed some improvement over the next day but was still showing obvious symptoms. After [the] open workouts he crashed and was very hard to wake up, when he did he had flashing vision and slurred speech.”
— JustBleedMMA (@JustBleedMMA) July 5, 2018
The recently-retired Michael Bisping, who currently serves as an analyst for Fox Sports’ UFC coverage, publicly made the observation that Holloway didn’t appear himself in an interview with the broadcaster.
The risks surrounding head injuries in any sport, let alone combat sports, need to be closely observed and appropriately managed.
It’s a shame for the sport’s fans to see such an interesting bout like Holloway – Ortega pulled from this bumper UFC 226 card on such short notice, but it’s an even bigger disappointment for the fighters and their teams involved. However, in any case, this was the correct decision made by the promoter and Holloway’s management.
Fighter safety is and always should be paramount. No matter how much a stricken fighter wants to continue with their planned fight, this safety-first attitude to head injuries should always stand in all levels of MMA.
This is of course the second time Holloway has been ruled medically unfit to compete this year. The first incident saw the New York State Athletic Commission pull the Hawaiian from his late-notice fight against Khabib Nurmagomedov for the UFC lightweight belt.
As for Holloway’s challenger Ortega, it’s unclear whether he’ll feature on this talent-packed UFC 226 card after all.