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Brian Ortega discusses Octagon comeback: 'I feel like a legit athlete now'

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Brian Ortega has been on the road to redemption ever since losing his first UFC championship bid to featherweight king Max Holloway at UFC 231 last December. “T-City” put up a good effort but ended up losing via fourth-round TKO (doctors stoppage).

Ortega, who entered UFC 231 an undefeated fighter, has had plenty of time since that loss to diagnose what went wrong and correct his mistakes to ensure future success. That’s the beauty of being a 28-year-old contender with world-class skill, determination, and athletic ability.

While Ortega was originally expected to fight “Korean Zombie” this weekend at UFC Mexico City (results here), “T-City” decided to postpone his return amidst chaos outside of the cage.

“It was (a) serious (possibility), but a lot of things happened,” Ortega told reports after a public workout earlier this week (H/T MMA Junkie). “I had a change in a lot of things. I tried to get my fight to happen … It was too chaotic during that time, so I was like, ‘I wanted to make the happen, but I’m going through this other stuff. Which one is more important right now? It’s the future.’

“I’ll fight again. So let’s worry about what has to be taken care of, let’s get that fixed, let’s get that changed, and then let’s move on to the next. So unfortunately we couldn’t be here to fight, but we’re still here, though.”

Still, despite is inability to compete in front of Mexico City’s finest against one of the best strikers in the featherweight division, Ortega still plans on returning to action in 2019. The talented submission expert has his eye on every fighter in the division so a return opponent is completely up in the air as of now.

“I’m clear, man. I’m back to fight shape. I’m good to go. I’m ready, I’m anxious,” he said. “Give me a camp, give me a fight date, give me where it’s at and we’ll make it happen. It’s gonna be 2019. … My eyes are on everyone who’s in the top 10 and everyone who’s not in the top 10. Everyone who’s coming up, everyone who’s barely getting there, and everyone who’s at the top – my eyes are on every single person.”

When Ortega does return to the Octagon he’s hoping that all of his hard work since last December has paid off. That includes refining his own skills, reworking his team, the way he prepares for a fight, and overcoming the mental anguish of suffering his first professional loss.

“It was the Holloway loss, it was things that happened after the fight,” he said. “All this drama that [expletive] unraveled. So I was like, ‘All right, cool. This means it’s time for a change.’ This means that if I had been champ, things would have been worse. This was God telling me, ‘Yo, let me stop you real quick. Let me fix you. Let me prep you and now let me get you ready for where you’ve got to be.’”

If Ortega is able to piece everything together moving forward he has a really good chance of regaining his spot in the featherweight division and running through the competition once more.

“I feel like a legit athlete now,” Ortega explained. “I always felt I was just a tough, strong, hard-worker – always just did what I had to do to get to where I had to be and did my assignment.

“Every single fight I had in the UFC, I finished my opponent. Mission accomplished. But now let’s do some right things with myself now. No more of the old-school mentality I had. You’re a professional athlete. Stop eating Jack in the Box. Get the right amount of sleep. Eat the right things. Do the right trainings. Pick up more arts. Become a [expletive] mixed martial artist.

“I just wanted to bang, and go to the ground, and I was happy with that. Obviously Max showed me you can’t just be like that, and if you want to be a champion you’re gonna need more than that. So that’s what I’m doing now.

“After that Max Holloway loss it was like, ‘All right, yo! You need to step your game up on a whole other level. These guys have these other things that you don’t have, but you’re not too far off. But you’re not too far off. Let’s tweak the right things, let’s get the right movements and let’s go in there and win.’”

Ortega added that he'd like to win the UFC featherweight title but also avenge his loss to "Blessed." In order to position himself for either scenario moving forward the California native must get back into the win column his next time out, which should come by year's end.