Max Holloway confident health issues behind him as UFC 231 nears

Max Holloway will look to defend his featherweight belt against Brian Ortega at UFC 231 in December. Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Everyone knows it has been a forgettable year for UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway.

After claiming the 145-pound title and defending it once in 2017, Holloway (19-3) has failed to even make it to competition this year.

He was pulled from a short-notice lightweight title fight against Khabib Nurmagomedov in April, due to weight cutting complications. And in July, he was forced out of a featherweight title defense against Brian Ortega in Las Vegas just days before, due to "concussion-like symptoms."

So as the 26-year-old champion prepares to defend his throne against Ortega at UFC 231 next week in Toronto, he knows there will be a lot of questions about his health. And even though he still can't clarify exactly what happened earlier this year, he's confident in where things are.

"We've got an ongoing investigation, so I've been told not to comment on everything yet," Holloway said. "The UFC and Toronto commission has my medicals and said we're good to go, so I ain't worried about it. People are going to ask and be concerned, and I love people for that.

"That fight week in July, something went wrong after my first meal about eight days out. We gave it a couple days, but it just got worse. I hadn't even started cutting weight. I was actually eating 2,500 calories a day. My kidneys showed it wasn't related to weight cutting -- and if it was, I'm pretty sure the UFC would restrict me. And the UFC doctor said my scans showed it wasn't a concussion.

"My team actually did a [toxicology] screen and, hey, Vegas is a crazy place. That's all I can really say about it right now."

The Ontario athletic commission confirmed to ESPN that Holloway has been licensed to fight at UFC 231, and was required to undergo a "certain medical test in addition to what is [normally] required." Holloway passed the test without issue.

Ortega (14-0) has repeatedly stated if Holloway doesn't make it to the title fight on Dec. 8 for whatever reason, he would face a different opponent for the undisputed title. UFC president Dana White confirmed that to be the case, but said he's not concerned with Holloway's status.

Holloway, of Waianae, Hawaii, says he expected this prefight narrative, and it doesn't bother him.

"It is what it is," Holloway said. "I show up to fight every time. If we didn't have commissions, I'd be fighting like the gladiator days. If that's the way he's got to push himself through camp, that's cool. Just get ready to see Max Holloway across the cage, because that's who's showing up.

"We're going to make it, man. No 'knock on wood' or anything like that. I'm blessed. Things have been unfortunate this year, but I'm in a good place right now. I can't put into words the energy we have, everything is great. I can't wait for fight week. It's been way too long."

All that said, Holloway has said his cut to 145 pounds is difficult and an eventual move up is likely inevitable.

Whether that might be the case immediately after UFC 231 will depend on the options presented.

"I already have the UFC belt, my next goal is pound-for-pound," Holloway said. "I want to move up the rankings to be the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world. That's what I want to be. After this fight, we'll work with the UFC to figure out the matchup they think will help me achieve that.

"If that's moving up a weight class, then it is. If it's me defending my throne, then it is. I'm here for the long run. Kings defend and reign, so I'm trying to reign ferociously."