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If not ‘Korean Zombie,’ Brian Ortega eyes Jose Aldo title eliminator fight for UFC return


The last 10 months has been a roller-coaster ride for top Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Featherweight Brian Ortega. After earning his first-ever shot at the UFC’s 145-pound strap against Max Holloway, “T-City” eventually came up short in his bid to dethrone “Blessed” at UFC 231 last December (highlights).

A few months later, though, Ortega scored a huge win by becoming one of Modelo’s newest faces, a big-time sponsorship in a time where solo deals are few and far between thanks to the heavily-criticized partnership between Reebok and UFC.

Brian also lost some of his inner circle along the way, but also made his presence known with some Hollywood heavy hitters, as he was tapped to train Halle Berry for her upcoming film. Through all the ups and downs, however, “T-City” never lost his true focus, which is to earn his way back to a title fight to fulfill his dream of becoming UFC champion.

Ortega spoke to about his loss to Max, his outside-of-the-cage endeavors, and a potential scrap against Chan Sung Jung.

“Modelo and I fit well because it’s an authentic partnership. They’re a brand that prides itself on the Fighting Spirit, and now more than ever before I’ve had to channel my own Fighting Spirit to get back to the top,” said Brian regarding his union with Modelo, who is the official beer of UFC and also has the backing of current Heavyweight king, Stipe Miocic.

“This mentality has fueled me on my road back, and I look forward to the hard work paying off the next time I step foot in the Octagon.”

After the tough technical knockout defeat to Holloway, Ortega took some time to reflect, heal from his injuries and reset. And after a busy stretch form 2017 to 2018, taking some much-needed time off was welcomed.

“Health played a role, but more than anything, it was a chance to reset. I feel fresh and motivated to get back out there and do what I love,” said Brian, who says that despite suffering his first pro loss, his training and style won’t necessarily go through a face lift.

“It doesn’t change much. I train with some of the best in the business, and the work put in behind closed doors has me feeling prepared every time I fight,” he said. “I mean, I expect to win when I step foot into the Octagon, and that won’t change despite the loss.”

A fight pitting Brian against “The Korean Zombie” has been dangled in front of fight fans for some time now, with both men actually going at it a little bit on social media. And though the promotion has yet to lock it down, Ortega is all in.

“This fight is not official, but I will tell you it’s a fight I’m interested in. I think our similar styles make for a great match.”

Should that fight not see the light of day, Ortega has options, including putting him up against former 145-pound king, Jose Aldo, who hasn’t seen the inside of the Octagon since losing to Alexander Volkanovksi at UFC 237.

With a win over an established vet and overall legend like Aldo, Ortega can see himself right back in the title mix.

“It doesn’t look like Alex and Max will fight at UFC 243, but you have to think that’s a match that has to happen at some point. Regarding me, I think many fans want Ortega-Aldo with the winner getting a shot at the title. That works for me, but a lot has to play out before that happens,” he added.

“As you mentioned – it’s a fight people want to see, and I think it will determine a lot in the weight class.”

Ortega earned his shot at the 145-pound strap after an impressive knockout win over Frankie Edgar, becoming the first and only man to ever KO “The Answer.” Over a year later, Frankie finally got his chance to face Holloway, losing via unanimous decision at UFC 240 a few months back (see it).

For Brian, though, seeing Max have to go a full 25 minutes against Frankie, while he knocked him out in the first round, won’t alter his state of mind and future preparations when the time comes to face “Blessed” again, or whoever is holding the belt at that time.

“I want a shot at the title regardless of who is standing in my way. If it happens to be Max, then let’s do it. Either way, fighters match up differently with one another so I’m not looking at his fight versus Edgar and mine versus Edgar as a measuring stick. I just know I want another shot at the title.”

As one of the top featherweights in the world, it’s not a question of if Brian (28) will get back to the big dance, but when. Who his first obstacle will be, though, remains to be seen.

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