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Brian Ortega to fight ‘The Korean Zombie’ in UFC’s final show of 2019

Brian Ortega, left, trains on the heavy bag.
Brian Ortega, left, trains on the heavy bag, in the garage of his coach, James Luhrsen, right, in the Harbor City neighborhood of Los Angeles.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Brian Ortega was born and bred in the Los Angeles neighborhood of San Pedro, and learned how to fight while training as a troubled teen in a Harbor City garage, but the UFC fighter will have to travel halfway around the world to begin his bounce-back tour.

Ortega (14-1) will fight for the first time since his lone career loss against Max Halloway last December — and give away home-field advantage while doing so — when he travels to Dongnae-gu, South Korea, and takes on “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung (15-5) on Dec. 21. The fight will be the main event for UFC Fight Night and the final card of the calendar year for the Dana White-led fighting promotion.

Ortega, who fights in Torrance, is the No. 2-ranked UFC featherweight in the world. None of his six career fights in the UFC have gone the distance.

Over the weekend, the submission specialist spoke to reporters in Mexico City and talked about the changes he was introducing in his life and training.

The main event of the UFC card between local favorite Yair Rodriguez and Iowa native Jeremy Stephens lasted only 15 seconds.
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“I feel like a legit athlete now. I always felt I was just a tough, strong, hard worker — always just did what I had to do to get to where I had to be and did my assignment,” said Ortega. “No more of the old-school mentality. You’re a professional athlete. Stop eating Jack in the Box. Get the right amount of sleep. Eat the right things. Do the right trainings. Pick up more arts. Become a [expletive] mixed-martial artist.”

Nicknamed “T-City,” Ortega is looking to put himself back into the title picture after being badly battered by featherweight champion Holloway during four rounds in a technical knockout defeat in Toronto.

“I just wanted to bang, and go to the ground, and I was happy with that,” said Ortega. “Obviously, Max showed me you can’t just be like that, and if you want to be a champion you’re gonna need more than that. So that’s what I’m doing now.”

Heading into that high-profile, pay-per-view challenge, Ortega had an undefeated record and was coming off a first-round knockout win against Frankie Edgar, a fighter Ortega watched on TV while still learning the sport.

Brian Ortega fights Frankie Edgar during a featherweight bout at UFC 222 in March 2018.
Brian Ortega, left, fights Frankie Edgar during a featherweight bout at UFC 222 in March 2018.
(Isaac Brekken / Getty Images)

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“After that Max Holloway loss it was like, ‘All right, yo! You need to step your game up on a whole other level. These guys have these other things that you don’t have, but you’re not too far off. Let’s tweak the right things, let’s get the right movements and let’s go in there and win.’”

Sung Jung should provide a stiff challenge to Ortega.

He is ranked as the UFC’s sixth-best featherweight and has alternated wins and losses in his last four fights. He’s coming off a June win via TKO against Renato Carneiro.

“My eyes are on everyone who’s in the top 10 and everyone who’s not in the top 10,” said Orega. “Everyone who’s coming up, everyone who’s barely getting there, and everyone who’s at the top — my eyes are on every single person.”


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