Brian Ortega will finally make his return to action at UFC Fight Island 6 this weekend. When he does, he’ll arrive to a featherweight division with a vastly changed landscape.
“I’m excited to be back. I’m happy to be back. It was a good thing for me in my career to take that long, just kind of sit back and relax a little bit. I was working for a long time,” Ortega told media outlets including Cageside Press during a virtual media day this week.
The number two ranked featherweight in the UFC has not fought since his December 2018 title bid opposite Max Holloway. Since that time, Holloway defended then lost the title, and rematched current champ Alexander Volkanovski. Both Jose Aldo and Frankie Edgar left the 145lb division for bantamweight.
The time away, however, allowed Ortega to reconnect with his family, among other benefits. “But now I’m back on the f*cking horse,” he exclaimed on Wednesday.
For the first time in his professional career, Ortega will be entering a fight — against the popular Korean Zombie — off a loss. That’s something he got over “day by day,” the Californian said. “Literally. Obviously, you lose, whatever. You kind of understand the day of the fight. After, it kind of sinks in a little more, then a little more. Then finally it’s like, ‘you know what? Start looking at all the good things about everything.’ Then you start understanding the nature of the sport, how it goes, then you just kind of f*cking let it go.”
Not only did Ortega let it go, he found way to benefit from the loss. “I used it in a positive way, in order to allow less pressure to come into my life [rather] than more.”
No longer an undefeated fighter, Ortega now enters the UFC Fight Island 6 main event against Zombie it what could easily be billed as a grudge match. “T-City” notoriously assaulted a friend of the South Korean fighter, Jay Park, in the stands at UFC 248 in March. Something Ortega blamed on online trash talk the Korean rapper had engaged in.
Park, of course, is a non-combatant. A police report was filed, but luckily for Ortega, Park decided not to pursue the matter. Ortega eventually apologized, and this week, claimed the fight isn’t personal.
“Not with [Zombie]. It’s not even personal. I saw him the other day, I didn’t say anything, he didn’t say anything. If it was personal, we would have jumped at each other,” said Ortega. “It was just something that happened, an incident that was done on my part. Just a way of shutting up the trash talk.”
That’s a refrain Ortega has made elsewhere. A month ago, speaking to ESPN, Ortega insisted the incident with Park was “just a slap” and said that it was result, again, of the trash talk. Which brings into question whether or not Ortega is all that serious about his apology, never mind the claim that the fight isn’t personal.
What the fight is not about, however, is a quick title shot, said Ortega. Instead, the booking with the Korean Zombie came about simply because he wanted a tough fight. “I’ve never looked to take an easy fight, nor am I ever going to start to look to take one. For me, it was like ‘alright who’s the baddest motherf*cker right now, who’s on fire that we can fight?’
Zombie turned out to be the answer. “The internet somehow tangled us together and the world wanted to see the fight. And then everything that happened happened, and now it’s like ‘yo, these guys have to fight!’ And I want to fight him,” Ortega admitted.
Watch the full UFC Fight Island 6 virtual media day scrum with Brian Ortega above.