UFC featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski is out of his title defence against Brian Ortega at UFC 260 due to the promotion’s “COVID-19 protocols”.
The news was broken on last night’s UFC Vegas 22 broadcast.
Volkanovski later confirmed on Twitter than he tested positive for the coronavirus, though said he tested negative before leaving his home country Australia.
“So devastated to share that I’ve tested positive for COVID-19 and my fight is off and will be rescheduled,” Volkanovski shared on social media. “I tested negative before entering the UFC bubble but my latest test was positive.
“We have worked so hard getting ready for this fight and I’m absolutely gutted his has happened.
“We followed every policy and process to remain covid free but it wasn’t meant to be this time.”
— Alex Volkanovski (@alexvolkanovski) March 21, 2021
Volkanovski’s bout with Ortega was set to serve as next weekend’s co-main event at UFC 260 in Las Vegas. The headline bout is a blockbuster heavyweight rematch between champion Stipe Miocic and Francis Ngannou.
At the time of writing, there is no confirmed date for the Volkanovski and Ortega fight now it’s been postponed.
Equally disappointed will be Ortega, who is hunting after the belt at 145 pounds in his second title shot.
“I know you would have took the fight no matter what, even with COVID,” Ortega said on Instagram. “That’s the type of human you are. I respect that. I hope you get better, I hope you heal up fast. We’ll postpone it and we’ll just reschedule it to when we got to.
“Stay sharp. We’re staying sharp. Whenever this s**t is meant to happen, it’ll happen.”
Brian Ortega posted a message to Alexander Volkanovski after the postponement of their featherweight title fight.
(via @BrianTcity) pic.twitter.com/xv5XSMRpeJ
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) March 21, 2021
Volkanovski has been the UFC featherweight champion since his win over Max Holloway at UFC 245 in December 2019. He has one successful defence of his title, that coming in a rematch against Holloway by split decision at UFC 251 last July.
“The Great” hasn’t lost a fight since 2013 and holds a perfect 9-0 record in the UFC.
Ortega lost his first title shot against Holloway at the end of 2018 – his first and only defeat in his career.
However, he bounced back in emphatic style against rival “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung in October 2020. That performance was enough to warrant him a second title shot.