Max Holloway forced out of UFC 226 featherweight title defense with concussion-like symptoms

Kevin Iole
Combat columnist
Featherweight champion Max Holloway withdrew Wednesday from his title defense against Brian Ortega that was scheduled for UFC 226 on Saturday with concussion-like symptoms. (Getty Images)

LAS VEGAS — Featherweight champion Max Holloway was forced Wednesday to pull out of his planned title defense against unbeaten challenger Brian Ortega on Saturday in the co-main event of UFC 226 at T-Mobile Arena with concussion-like symptoms.

ESPN’s Ariel Helwani broke the news, only hours after Holloway participated in a public workout at the MGM Grand.

According to a statement from Holloway’s management team, he was hospitalized Monday and released Tuesday. When he didn’t seem right on Wednesday after the public workout, he was re-admitted to the hospital and withdrawn from the card.

It is not clear if Ortega will still appear on the card.

“Max’s team and UFC staff noticed Max was not normal since late last week. This became obvious to many watching his interviews and public appearances the past few days. He was showing concussion-like symptoms before he even started his weight cut and was rushed to the ER on Monday where they admitted him over night. Initial scans seemed okay, and he was released Tuesday afternoon but symptoms still continued.

“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 open workouts, he crashed and was very hard to wake up, when he did he had flashing vision and slurred speech. He is now back in the ER for further tests.”

This is the fourth time in as many years that a major fighter was forced to pull out of a fight on the UFC’s major “International Fight Week” show. In 2015, Jose Aldo pulled out of a UFC 189 match with Conor McGregor because of a rib injury. Jon Jones was yanked from a UFC 200 bout with Daniel Cormier because of a failed drug test. And last year, women’s bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes pulled out of a match at UFC 213 with Valentina Shevchenko on the morning of the fight.

Holloway also was yanked last-minute from a planned fight against Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 223 in Brooklyn in April. Holloway accepted that fight late, when Tony Ferguson was injured, and was going to compete for the lightweight title. But he had difficulty with his weight cut and was removed for precautionary reasons.

Featherweight champion Max Holloway worked out for the public on Wednesday at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, hours before being pulled from his UFC 226 fight with Brian Ortega because of concussion-like symptoms. (Getty Images)