Yair Rodriguez’s victory over Brian Ortega at UFC Long Island last Saturday didn’t exactly lend the clarity to the featherweight title picture that fans might have hoped.
With Josh Emmett coming off a contested split decision over Calvin Kattar back in June, word on the street was that a dominant victory for Rodriguez on July 16th would make him the next man to contend for Alexander Volkanovski’s belt. But while there’s no doubt that Rodriguez won his fight, a shoulder injury TKO to Brian Ortega is hardly the method anyone imagined.
“I already told him, we can run it back any time,” Rodriguez told Daniel Cormier in his post-fight speech, speaking of Ortega and his damaged shoulder.
Asked about that idea at the post fight presser, however, and UFC president Dana White sounded skeptical of the plan. Notably that the timeline for shoulder surgery is long enough that it’s not worth trying to think about bookings that far into the future.
“[Ortega] probably needs shoulder surgery now,” White said at the post-fight press conference (transcript via MMA Fighting). “I had shoulder surgery. It’s a nightmare and it takes a long time to recover from. We’ll see what happens. I’m not even thinking about that right now, but awesome that they both want to do it.”
Alongside the news that Volkanovski may need surgery for a broken hand he suffered in his most recent title defense, and that could leave the UFC in an interesting situation—one possibly compounded by the Aussie’s spoken desire to chase a second UFC title up in the lightweight division. Whether Emmett or Rodriguez deserves a shot at gold, and whether Ortega deserves his rematch, none of that may matter if neither Ortega nor Volkanovski are going to be ready to compete at 145 lbs any time in the near future.
The solution? One reporter asked White about the possibility of creating an interim featherweight title. After all, the UFC has two potential contenders for the belt and seemingly no fight to put them in. That seems to be an idea White is willing to explore.
“Volkanovski I think is going to have surgery on his hand,” White said. “I think there’s something wrong with his hand. … You’re asking if [Rodriguez vs. Emmett for an interim title is] a possibility? I like it. I don’t hate it.”
It may not be quite the unified belt that either the Team Alpha Male nor the Huntington Beach Training Center athletes have been gunning for. But a chance to win even a piece of championship hardware isn’t something to sneeze at. Especially since, for the foreseeable time-frame, it may just be the best offer on the table.
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