18 Oct [MMA] 
With UFC title shot looming, Brian Ortega hasn't forgotten about Max Holloway: 'We will meet again'

ABU DHABI – If all goes according to the plan UFC president Dana White laid out before Saturday’s event, Brian Ortega has penciled himself in as the next featherweight title challenger.

At UFC on ESPN+ 38, Ortega (15-1 MMA, 7-1 UFC) stepped into the cage for the first time in 22 months. In what White called a No. 1 contender fight, Ortega dominated “The Korean Zombie,” Chan Sung Jung Jung (16-6 MMA, 6-3 UFC), en route to a unanimous decision (50-45, 50-45, 50-45).

“It felt great to come back and trust my team with everything we’ve been working hard to do and come out here and show the world,” Ortega told MMA Junkie at the post-fight news conference. “… I knew I could do that once I actually stuck to a game plan and not get emotional like I used to. Of course, man. I’ve been working with these guys for a while now. While everyone had been watching the UFC and everything, I kind of disappeared from the face of the earth. I was in the frickin’ dungeon down there just grinding away, looking at these fights and going, ‘Don’t worry. I’m going to have my time.'”

During his time away from the in-cage action, Ortega kept a close eye on all of the featherweight division’s happenings. Current UFC featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski twice beat Max Holloway, the man who handed Ortega his first UFC loss 22 months ago.

“I watched his fights – both of his fights with Max,” Ortega said, of Volkanovski. “Obviously, after that, I had to watch that. (He’s) very methodical, very technical with the way he approached everything.”

All signs point toward him being the next challenger for Volkanovski (22-1 MMA, 9-0 UFC), but Ortega hasn’t forgotten about the former champion Holloway (21-6 MMA, 17-6 UFC), either.

“I said this in the beginning, in the very, very beginning when the fight was first set up: ‘We will meet again.’ He’s going to stay at the top,” Ortega said. “He’s not just a guy that’s going to drop right off the bat and just spiral down his career. I’m not a guy that’s going to just fall off like that. Clearly, tonight, I showed the world that’s not me.

“He’s going to stay on top. I’m going to be on the top. Volkanovski’s going to be on the top. Believe me. We’re going to have some rounds with all of us. We’re going to keep you guys entertained.”

The first fight against Holloway headlined UFC 231 in December 2018. In a fairly one-sided affair, Holloway struck his way into a dominating opening 20 minutes. The fight was stopped in between the fourth and fifth rounds, with Holloway winning by TKO via retirement.

If they fight again, Ortega predicts a different outcome.

“It would just look different,” Ortega said. “I’m not here to promote anything and say this or that. I just know I’m a better fighter than I was when I fought him and it would go a lot different.”

UFC on ESPN+ 38 took place Saturday at Flash Forum on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi. The event streamed on ESPN+.