Brian Ortega (15-2 MMA, 7-2 UFC) reflects on how close he was to changing the course of history last September when he nearly submitted the featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski. It was so close, yet so far away. Ortega ultimately lost a unanimous decision at UFC 266.
“I sat there, and I looked at that tape over and over again,” Ortega told reporters during UFC on ABC 3 media day on Wednesday. “I said, ‘How the f*ck did this man get out of that choke?’ I was on top celebrating. I’ll be honest with you. I was in there, and I had him in that guillotine, and I was like, ‘I’m about to be a world champ.’ I swear. I was just waiting for the tap, and it never came.”
“He got out, and I was like, ‘Sh*t.’ Well, this is a tough motherf*cker. Then it was like, ‘Oh, he’s on top now. OK. He’s pissed.’ Then I was like, ‘Another triangle. T-City by T-City.’ And he escaped and I went, ‘F*ck me, right?’ I was like, ‘Damn, bro. This is not my f*cking night, or what’s going on?’”
For nearly a year, Ortega has been reminded of just how close – by fans and media. This, in addition to all the times he’s thought about the sequence himself.
“I’d be lying to you if I didn’t, for the last couple months, and every fan reminding you, ‘Yo, you almost became a champ.’ I was like, ‘Thanks, you f*cking d*ck.’ You don’t think I sit there, and I think about it? Trust me. I know. I’ve got to live with my f*cking self,” Ortega said. “Then there’s a part of (me) like, ‘Bro, stop being a b*tch. Go in there and make the adjustments, and make sure you’re undeniable the way he is doing right now.’ I’ve got to take a page (out of Volkanovski’s) book.”
“He’s making sure that he’s undeniably the best that he is. If I want to become a champ, I’ve got to steal a page out of that man’s book. When it comes to that mentality, you have to be undeniable. That’s what I’m doing. I’m doing my best at trying to work as hard as I can to make sure that I’m undeniable.”
In order to become undeniable, Ortega thinks a mental reversion is necessary.
“As a fighter, you stick to your bread and butter, and you do things,” Ortega said. “Because I’ve been known as a jiu-jitsu guy, I kind of got comfortable with it. I hadn’t trained it as hard as I used to. I was like, ‘Well, I’ve got that in the bag. Let me work on these other things that I’m not so good at. Let me work on my striking. Let me work on other things.’ Then when it came down to the situation, where your bread and butter is going to get you this fight, I forgot minimal, minor details. It was a reality check for me. It was like, ‘Don’t forget where you come from and what brought you over here.’”
“Obviously this guy is a phenomenal striker,” Ortega said. “I would love if the fight somehow ended up on the ground or if I could take him down. He’s wiry, as well. I got both things in the bag, as well. You’ve seen me bang it out with the best of the best. I keep trying to get better at it, but I do want to mix in more of my training and the things I know I can do in that octagon.
“It’s something that’s always happening to me. I go in there, and I train, and I spar, and I train with high-level guys. They’re like, ‘Bro, where is this Brian at when he’s fighting?’ It’s like, ‘Ah f*ck, man. I don’t know.’ I don’t want to say that I have stage fright, but just certain things just don’t pop off. Maybe I have to just learn to let go and be free in there. It’s something hopefully I plan to do and always get every single time I fight.”
UFC on ABC 3 takes place Saturday at USB Arena in Elmont, N.Y.