After coming off an almost two-year hiatus and winning impressively over “The Korean Zombie” last October, Brian Ortega spoke with Brett Okamoto on ESPN MMA’s YouTube channel. Ortega returns to the Octagon on March 27 to challenge UFC featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski at UFC 260.
Ortega credited the difference between this title fight and his last title shot against Max Holloway at UFC 231 to an improvement in his lifestyle along with more experience in the sport of mixed martial arts.
“Everything’s different. Everything’s new. Everything’s better,” Ortega said. “I’m more experienced now in the actual game of MMA. Realizing what this game brings more of, and the ups and downs, experiencing defeat. I’m starting to become a veteran.”
Ortega says the feeling of becoming a veteran is bittersweet, but his evolution as a fighter has been undeniable.
“T-City” was a fighter who almost exclusively sought out a finish. If he could not find one, he would certainly make the bout a dogfight. Take his title fight with Max Holloway for instance. Or his last-minute knockout finish against Clay Guida at UFC 199; a fight he was losing on scorecards by the way.
Ortega now looks at that mentality within the fight as a reserve tank.
“I can go there, if s–t hits the fan, and the fans love that version of me,” Ortega said. “It’s what you want to see in a fight.”
“T-City” says he expects more of a chess match against Volkanovski rather than one of the many dogfights fans and pundits have seen from Ortega in the past.
“I feel like he’s very technical, I feel like it’s gonna be somewhat of that type of [technical] fight,” Ortega said. “He’s a specimen when he goes in there. In how he moves, in how he creates his opportunities, in how he goes and wins rounds… He’s an interesting one. So now it’s time to go in there and decipher this puzzle.”
Many fans, pundits and fellow fighters (including Ortega) credit Volkanovski with his approach to fighting. While some fighters throw caution to the wind, the approach from the reigning featherweight champion is calculated and almost scientific.
Can Brian Ortega knock Alexander Volkanovski out of his calculated approach?
But Ortega brought up a significant point. People have not yet seen Volkanovski’s reaction to an opponent who makes the fight into more of a brawl than a ballet dance.
“I feel like maybe that’s why people call him a competitor, including myself. Because I’ve never seen him in a dogfight,” Ortega said. “I don’t know how he reacts when his back is against the wall and he has to fight. Because no one has been able to put him there.”
Despite Ortega’s interesting observation (or potential gameplan), T-City acknowledges he has to prepare adequately for a fighter with the technical prowess that Volkanovski possesses.
“I do have to get ready for a competitor. I gotta get ready for somebody who is ready to compete and win rounds and play the intelligent game of mixed martial arts,” Ortega said.
“So it does change my mindset. It does change a little bit of the way we approach this fight, and we gotta dance according to the music.”
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