Ortega (15-1 MMA, 7-1 UFC) is set to challenge Volkanovski (22-1 MMA, 9-0 UFC) for the featherweight title in Saturday’s pay-per-view headliner at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. It’s a fight that has been a long time coming, originally scheduled for March before the champion contracted COVID-19 to force a postponement.
The delay lasted roughly seven months, as the pair coached Season 29 of “The Ultimate Fighter” reality series in between. Volkanovski has said repeatedly he’s no fan of Ortega after their interactions on the show, calling him “spoiled,” “bratty” and “unprofessional,” among other things.
Ortega thinks Volkanovski is making too much of the interactions, though, as he tries to build up the title bout. He doesn’t share the same ill will and said he won’t engage in a war of words.
“People only see certain things,” Ortega told MMA Junkie and other reporters at Wednesday’s UFC 266 media day. “I’m not here to talk sh*t. If he has something to say, I’ll talk to him one-on-one when there’s no cameras. F*ck the bullsh*t. I’ll come get you in person if you really want to go there. I’ll come get you in the elevator if you want. I think if me and him were to be in a room and actually hang out for real, we’d be good acquaintances. But other than that I’m going to let him f*cking butcher the sales pitch for this fight.”
Drama aside, it’s been a long road for Ortega to get to this title fight. He was badly beaten in his first crack at UFC gold against Max Holloway in December 2018, but he showed great strides to his skillset in a win over Chan Sung Jung in his most recent outing.
Ortega said he’s as prepared as he can possibly be for the opportunity. He made dramatic shifts to his personal and professional life in the aftermath of the Holloway fight, and he’s looking for a different result as he tries to climb the mountain again.
“I’ve changed everything about my life, down to where I live to the way I eat to the way I train, the people that are in my corner,” Ortega said. “Everything is new and improved. The only thing you can do after a loss is see if you can get better. Pick yourself up. That’s what I did. That’s the journey. You fight and you win, or you fight and you lose, and then you get better or get worse. And if you get worse you’ve got to keep getting better. That’s the sport that we’re in.”
Ortega claims to have ticked every box to make sure he has his best chance to win at UFC 266. It’s a different opponent than his first title shot, though, and Volkanovski has won his past 19 fights without a single blemish in his UFC career.
There may be some personal tension between Ortega and Volkanovski, but inside the cage, the challenger said he has all respect for the champ.
“His standup obviously (is good), his ability to stay disciplined in there with his abilities and his movement,” Ortega said. “There’s little openings in there, and he sees them, and he takes them. He’s the champion for a reason, and I give him credit. I talk my sh*t, but at the end of the day I do have respect.”
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