On paper, this fight is one of the most deserved main events of the year — Holloway is the second most dominant champion in the Featherweight division history and is riding a 12-fight winning streak, while Ortega is one of the rising stars of the sport with a 14-0 record.
Due to his zen demeanor and "anything goes" attitude, Holloway has left his stamp on the sport without getting involved in the verbal warfare that has presided over the UFC since its inception. But that decision can come at a cost — while Holloway lays claim to an elite status, his name still isn't familiar enough with the general population.
UFC 231 looks to change that, and make Holloway a star in the process.
If you want to see Holloway defend his title in person, you can get an Official Ticket Package to UFC 231 right now through the UFC VIP Experience.
Hawaii's Very Own
Most fighter's identity is linked to where they come from, whether that be their home nation or a state that they represent with pride. Max 'Blessed' Holloway does the later, but in a way that encompasses the former.
As a native of Honolulu, Hawaii, Holloway carries the honor and pride of all of the islands on his back when he steps into The Octagon®.
During the walkout before every one of his fights, Holloway throws the Hawaiian flag over his shoulders and wears it to the cage to boast his affiliation with his homeland.
It is What It Is
After starting his career 4-0 in local Hawaiian promotions, Holloway was signed by the UFC in 2012. His debut fight was against Dustin Poirier at UFC 143, where Holloway was acting as a replacement for Ricardo Lamas. He entered the fight as the youngest fighter (20 years old) on the UFC's roster. The rookie lost the fight by submission, earning him his first career defeat.
Holloway went 3-2 in his first five bouts with the promotion before earning a date with rising prospect Conor McGregor (who knew at the time how big this fight would actually be in hindsight). McGregor defeated Holloway by unanimous decision, giving the Hawaiian his second straight loss, but ultimately setting him on the path he is currently blazing on.
The early losses in the UFC didn't deter Holloway. If anything, it motivated the featherweight with the world stacked against him to succeed. This is around the time that his catchphrase of "It is what it is" came into fruition, meaning that you just have to deal with the card that is dealt to you in mixed martial arts.
Holloway took the adversity of early losses and turned them into an unprecedented winning streak. For the next two-and-a-half years (2014-16), Holloway went on a nine-fight winning streak and cemented his name atop the featherweight division.
The final fight of that winning spurt came against Lamas, and the two created 10 of the most memorable seconds in UFC history:
At UFC 206 in Toronto, Canada, Holloway got his first sniff of gold. He was booked to fight Anthony 'Showtime' Pettis for the Interim Featherweight Championship, a placeholder belt that promised him a future date with then-champion Jose Aldo.
Holloway stopped Pettis in the third round by TKO to earn his first UFC belt and cement his name in the history books.
The newly-minted interim champion got his shot at featherweight king Jose Aldo at UFC 212 and did not miss. Holloway became the third man to ever hold the UFC Featherweight Championship after beating Aldo in the third round.
After getting the official title around his waist, Holloway declared that the 'Blessed Era' had officially begun.
Aldo was given an immediate rematch after losing his title, but fortune was not on his side in the do-over. Holloway stopped Aldo again in the third round at UFC 218, declaring himself the present and future of the division.
While the second Aldo bout was Holloway's last fight, a lot has happened while he's been out of the cage.
After Tony Ferguson pulled out of his UFC 223 Lightweight Championship fight against Khabib Nurmagomedov, Holloway stepped into his place on six days notice to try and become the second double-champ in UFC history. Unfortunately, Holloway was removed from the fight by the New York State Athletic Commission doctors due to the dangers of an expedited weight cut.
Most recently, Holloway was scheduled for his second title defense against Brian 'T-City' Ortega at UFC 226. However, Holloway was pulled from the fight three days before the event due to concussion-like symptoms that kept him in the hospital for a few days.
But with his medical snafus seemingly behind him, Holloway will finally get his crack at Ortega on December 8. In what promises to be a war, we'll see if the 26-year old champion has what it takes to continue his reign.
See Max Holloway at UFC 231
Be in the midst of the action in Toronto with an Official Ticket Package to UFC 231 from the UFC VIP Experience. See Holloway and Ortega battle for the featherweight title and Valentina Shevchenko and Joanna Jedrzejczyk go head-to-head for the Women's Flyweight Championship. As a VIP, you get access to the weigh-ins, fighter meet & greets, our hospitality area and much more!