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Brian Ortega says Alexander Volkanovski loss forced him to re-think training: 'We almost forget what we're good at sometimes'

Ortega recounts dramatic UFC 266 sequence with Volkanovski and the moment he nearly became UFC featherweight champion.

While UFC featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski continues to climb up the promotion's pound-for-pound rankings with performances that seem to get more impressive each time out, Brian Ortega nearly put that scintillating run to an end.

During the third round of their UFC 266 meeting this past September, Ortega floored Volkanovski with a left hand and then quickly followed to the canvas, locking on a guillotine choke that seemed destined to end the fight. The champion visibly struggled and squirmed, kicking his legs in desperation until he created enough space to survive, at which point Ortega released the hold and tried to lock up a D'Arce choke that he didn't quite secure.

The sequence was one of the most intense moments of an incredibly gritty fight and the most danger Volkanovski has seen during his title reign. In the time since, Ortega said he certainly reviewed the footage – getting feedback from his longtime coach, Rener Gracie – and it forced him to a very stark realization.

"I kind of sat on it for a little bit right after just because that's when I had like the most time, right, and everyone's still tagging it and they're making the memes and everything that's out there," Ortega told MMA Underground. "I was just like, 'F-ck, dude. What?' Then I went on, like, 'Dude, I don't even know the fucker got out.' I go 'Rener, what the hell?' and he was like, 'Bro, check this out,' and he kind of broke it down for me and told me this and that, and I was like, 'Oh, my God. F-ck, I didn't see those.' There's things I didn't see, and then I was like, 'What a f-cking – bro, demote my ass. I don't deserve a black belt.' 

"We almost forget what we're good at sometimes. You know, we're so good at it that we just go – and especially in this world – that I went into this and other things, into striking, and I kind of engulfed myself deeply in other realms and kind of just like, 'Yeah, I'm the jiu-jitsu guy. I've got it in the bag,' until you don't get it, and then you're just like, 'F-ck.' Even me, I've got to go back and do it more than what I was doing it, you know?"

Ortega (15-2 MMA, 7-2 UFC) returns to action on Saturday in the main event of UFC on ABC 3, where he takes on fellow top contender Yair Rodriguez (13-3 MMA, 8-1 UFC) at UBS Arena in Elmont, N.Y.

Both men are known to be among the most exciting in the division, and it could prove to be a standup battle given each of their propensities to stand and trade. But if Ortega does get a chance to show off the incredible grappling skills that he's earned over a lifetime of training and have seen him score submission wins over the likes of Diego Brandao, Mike De La Torre, Renato Moicano and Cub Swanson, he promises not to make the same mistake again.

"I've been going back and just going back to my roots again, you know – going back to my roots and learning other arts, as well," Ortega said. "But it's like, 'Hey, if I'm going to spend this much time learning these arts, I better spend as much time going back on the mat and and just not forgetting about what it is that got me here,' you know?"

Check out the full interview with Ortega in the video above.