The last time we saw Brian Ortega in the UFC Octagon was December 2018 and he’d just been handed the first defeat of his career by Max Holloway, who beat him so bbloody the doctors had to stop their fight after the fourth round. So there were a lot of questions regarding the kind of “T-City” we’d see in his return nearly two years and a knee injury later.
Ortega answered them all with a five round blanking of the always dangerous “Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung at UFC Fight Island 6 — watch the highlights here.
The last Ortega we saw was a passable striker whose bread and butter came on the ground. This Ortega beat Jung solidly on the feet for five straight rounds. To say it was a serious upgrade to an already dangerous fighter’s toolkit would be an understatement. During the ESPN+ post-fight show Brian credited his new team for his improvement and promised more to come.
“This is a new evolution of what I have to bring to the table,” Ortega said. “This is barely Phase 1 though. Me and this team is brand new. This is our first date and it’s going great. We have a full game plan, a full strategy for my entire career and this was a great testament and trust for me to have on them.”
“To be having your hand raised at this level is important as well, it’s the number one thing,” he continued during a backstage interview (via UFC News). “But to go out there and start from scratch. Complete scratch. Only Rener is the only guy who stayed with me. Everything else is from scratch. So there was a whole thing where, man, I have to trust these people basically with my life. And in the beginning it was a little bit hard but once I got injured and we started working again, just spending time with these individuals, I trust them. I trust them.”
“This is the first time I actually stuck to a gameplan,” he continued. “Usually I abort gameplan ... well we never really had one to begin with. We kind of made a little semi-one up. But this is the first time I had a true game plan. Had MMA coaches, not just this coach, that coach. Paul Herrera has been in the game for a long time. Tiki Ghosn has fought for the UFC. Jason Park has been around a lot of UFC fighters. Everyone. Maybe the boxing coach I have is new to MMA but we all guided him in.”
Ortega highlighted the difference between this new team and his old one.
"I understand you leave the game for two years and you get counted out, but I'm here to remind everyone."@BrianTCity saw the changes he made turn into success and feels ready to challenge for the featherweight title once again.#UFCFightIsland6 | #InAbuDhabi | @VisitAbuDhabi pic.twitter.com/XPVwze9f7N— UFC News (@UFCNews) October 18, 2020
“I got a lot of weight off my shoulders. We have a very non-dramatic team,” he revealed. “No problems. Back in the day we were all fighting. The whole fight week for Max [Holloway] we were completely all fighting with each other. And then I fought like that. So now it’s good, we all get along, we have great chemistry, we were joking around this entire trip. It’s good vibes.”
And as for that shot at the end of his Octagon interview towards fair-weather fans? It certainly sounds like something he’s had a lot of time to think about.
“When you look at sports, I’m a Lakers fan,” Ortega said. “Dodgers fan since I was a kid. Win or lose, I’m with my damn team. MMA? I bet you I got a bunch of Korean fans because they just left Korean Zombie and are coming to me. And if I lose, they’re going to go to the next place. We have short term memory fans, I guess.”
“So for those who are my fans, who stay with me - I love you guys and know that I truly appreciate you guys from the bottom of my heart. And for those that switch up ... pick someone, man. Pick someone Stay loyal to them man. Make us feel good about what we do.”