The last time we saw Brian Ortega in the Octagon, it was in a championship fight, albeit in a one-sided losing effort. On Saturday, 22 months after he lost to Max Holloway in a featherweight title bout in Toronto, Ortega looked every bit of a champion in dismantling Chan Sung Jung, aka “The Korean Zombie,” in Abu Dhabi.
With a new team and a healthy body, Ortega swept all five rounds and earned a title shot against featherweight champion Alex Volkanovski.
He dropped Zombie with a spinning elbow in the second round, but for the most part, stood in front of him and boxed. He mixed his attack and repeatedly beat the South Korean star to the punch.
“I got one message: All my homies who rolled with me, even after my last one, I love you,” he said. “For all you who counted me out, learn to count motherf---ers.”
Ortega missed 22 months after his loss to Holloway because he had several surgeries to repair injuries he suffered in the fight and because he switched teams. He moved to the Huntington Beach Ultimate Training Center after a bitter split with his former team, and the move clearly paid off.
He was the quick, athletic guy who rose up the rankings by taking out fighters like Frankie Edgar, Renato Moicano, Cub Swanson and Clay Guida to earn a title shot.
But he said that he spoke of problems in his camp even before he fought Holloway and they all showed themselves in Toronto.
On Saturday, he was rejuvenated and looked like he was ready for a title fight. He admitted that he’s eager for the chance to fight for the belt again, but said the sport is dealing with a series of unknowns.
“We’re going to find out if I’m ready,” he said. “In this game, you take chances. You don’t know if you’re ready.”
“Alexander Volkanovski, you’re the champ. The thought of fighting you is exciting. We’re ready.”
He proved that by dominating a fight in which he was nearly a 3-1 underdog and keeping the dangerous Jung on the defensive throughout.
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