With Max Holloway out of UFC 226, the promotion attempted to salvage another marquee fight for the card involving No. 1 ranked featherweight contender Brian Ortega.
After Holloway was taken to the hospital on Wednesday night with concussion like symptoms, the UFC scrambled to find an opponent to potentially step in on short notice to face Ortega on the card.
According to UFC president Dana White, top five ranked featherweight Jeremy Stephens was quick to accept the call and wanted to face Ortega on two days notice.
Stephens is currently in training camp preparing for a showdown with former featherweight champion Jose Aldo at UFC on FOX 30 on July 28.
“Literally Jeremy Stephens will not stop blowing me up. He wants this fight so bad, he said he’ll take it on short notice,” UFC president Dana White said on Thursday during the UFC 226 pre-fight press conference. “He’s cutting weight already with hopes that Ortega will accept the fight.
“Ortega has turned down the fight. We’ll see what happens.”
Later in the press conference, White turned his attention to Ortega’s manager Ed Soares who was sitting in the front row and put him on the spot about the matchup as well.
Soares smiled but then responded that it was a definite ‘no’ — Ortega wouldn’t be fighting Stephens on two days notice.
White also confirmed that former champion Frankie Edgar was considered as a replacement on the card but it just couldn’t come together with so little time remaining until the event.
“Frankie Edgar is a stud, everybody on this planet knows,” White said. “We called and he said yes and his family said no. His family said there’s no way he’s going to take this fight. It really happened. He’s a stud, he wanted to take the fight. He was actually going to take the fight against Jeremy Stephens for the interim title.
“Believe me, we tried everything we could to put another fight on this card and it didn’t work out.”
UFC 226 will move forward with 11 total fights and as of now there’s no exact word when Holloway or Ortega will return to action.