Brian Ortega: This is barely Phase 1

Brian Ortega shut down “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung in the main event of UFC on ESPN+ 38 on Saturday night. Ortega had not fought in 20 months, since losing his undefeated streak in a title shot vs. then featherweight champion Max Holloway. Ortega had an entirely new corner (he turned over all of his coaching staff except for Rener Gracie, who couldn’t make it due to a positive COVID-19 test). The odds were against Ortega, but he soundly beat them; at the on the ESPN+ post-fight show, he said he’s only just begun.

“It feels great,” said Ortega. “This is a new evolution of what I have to bring to the table. 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.”

“I was expecting a solid first round. If you look at all of his fights, right from the beginning, [Renato] Moicano, [Frankie] Edgar, Dennis Bermudez, all the dangerous times is at the first round. So we figured, alright, let’s chill this first round even if we have to take it off and then we pick up the pace.”

Ortega shifted frequently, but ended up having the greatest success Southpaw.

“That’s the only thing that changed,” said Ortega. “I switch a lot back and forth, you’ve seen in all my fights. But right off the bat, I started orthodox. I went southpaw and I just found more [comfort] there. I was like, ‘You know what? He can’t hit me from here, he’s having a hard time swinging, he’s missing,’ and I was like I’m just gonna stay here.”

Fans couldn’t help but notice that at the weigh-ins, Ortega was bald, and wondered if it was a step to make weight. It was in fact for a higher cause.

“October, there’s like Breast Cancer Awareness and all that and that was kind of sitting on me,” said Ortega. “I visited a lot of children’s hospitals where I saw kids who had cancer and it’s always been something in the back of my mind. I told myself always when I cut my hair I want to donate it to an organization that does help. When I was doing my weight cut I was like, ‘Man, I’m suffering right now.’ I don’t know why, I get sentimental, I started thinking I’m suffering with these poor people, they’re suffering more than I am.

“And I was like, ‘Yo, bring the f***ing clippers right now, I’m doing this.’ They suffer for a long time and they have to deal with it. I suffered for one weight cut and I’m back to normal. So I was like, ‘Give me the f***king thing.’ They’re all like, ‘Don’t do it, don’t do it.’ I was like, ‘Gimme ‘em!’”

“I’m gonna grow it back, it’s gonna come back.”

h/t Alexander K. Lee for MMA Fighting

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