Brian “T-City” Ortega has quickly became of my favorite fighters in the UFC — and for great reason. The #1 featherweight contender in the world right now is about to blow up into a bonafide superstar for a medley of reasons.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Ninja
First off, Ortega was nicknamed “T-City”, short for “Triangle City”, after the his unique ability from a young age to execute triangle choke holds, has a jiu-jitsu skill-set that places him amongst elite company known to be the best grapplers in the MMA world such as Jacare Souza, Demian Maia, Minotauro Nogueira, and recent MMA debutant Garry Tonon. If you need a recent example of Ortega’s work to back up my claim, check out his fight against Cub Swanson from UFC Fight Night 123 just a short time ago in December of 2017.
Swanson left his neck open and Ortega capitalized by attempting the guillotine choke and he had it, but he didn’t have it just right. “T-City” made an adjustment to his arm setup and placement while still in hanging guillotine, and then locked in the choke for good. He looked like a python or a boa constrictor readjusting itself while squeezing the life out of its prey. This was a world-class maneuver, and when I say that, I mean that there are only a handful of guys in the world that could successfully pull this off. Swanson had no choice but to tap for his life, citing the choke as one of his “scariest moments” in the octagon. That statement speaks volumes coming from a veteran with the tenure that Swanson has.
Ortega is a product of the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu school system and has trained largely under Rener Gracie out of the Torrance, California chapter. Rather than going the route of IBJJF, Abu Dabi, and the like, Ortega envisioned himself as a professional mixed martial artist on the big stage from the time he was a teenager.
On the “Below the Belt” podcast hosted by retired UFC heavyweight turned stand-up comic Brendan Schaub, Ortega said that one of the guys from the gym took him to a UFC event, and right then and there, he was hooked and knew that fighting inside the octagon was what he wanted to do when he grew up. “T-City” credits his support system at the gym as one of the biggest factors in his success, not necessarily he sport itself.
He Is Human Just Like The Rest Of Us
When Ortega was growing up, he was no stranger to life in the streets growing up in the greater Los Angeles area. Most of his childhood friends wound up serving time and he himself narrowly avoided prison. Ortega says that he is the one that managed to make it out and is the one who is manifesting the destiny that they envisioned for themselves as teenagers.
Want to talk about humble? In today’s game where you have your Conor McGregor‘s of the world showing off a new Rolls-Royce every few weeks, “T-City” still drives his 1998 Chevy Trailblazer to train with his striking coach, James Luhrsen, in a one car garage in Harbor City.
Recently, Ortega started the Brian Ortega Foundation where he will be granting scholarship opportunities for tuition to the Gracie schools. Women’s Strawweight Champion “Thug” Rose Namajunas turned some heads and opened some eyes with her victory speech after winning the title against Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Namajunas spoke about loving one another and how we all can work to be better human beings. Well, Ortega is picking up on his jiu-jitsu ninja friend’s lead and running with it. In a recent interview, Ortega said a lot of people talk about being about it but really aren’t. He, however, says he is for real and creating the Brian Ortega Foundation is is putting rubber to the pavement for the cause.
We live in a world filled with so much negativity and so many bad things, it is refreshing to see good hearted people such as Ortega using their platform to empower the youth and help to build a brighter future.
Wanna Go Night Night?
Originally billed mostly as a BJJ specialist, Ortega’s striking has improved by leaps and bounds making his stand-up game a legit threat to anyone in the division.
At UFC 222, he made history by knocking out Frankie freaking Edgar. Edgar is a future Hall of Famer who had never been finished in his career and is widely recognized as one of the toughest to ever compete in the sport.
Ortega is a big and long fighter in the 145-pound division standing at 5’8″ tall with a 69″ reach. Because of this, he has had to work on his dirty boxing and knees for the close-quartered striking. His hard work and dedication to becoming a well-rounded mixed martial artist showed as he landed a booming elbow to Edgar’s face, which started the sequence of strikes that ultimately led to the TKO stoppage in the first round.
Clay Guida is another UFC legend that met the sandman against Ortega. Guida has been credited with an iron chin in his 51-fight professional career, which has spanned the better half of two decades. Ortega landed a vicious knee that sent Guida crashing to the canvas in the third round back at UFC 199 in 2016.
Undefeated Is Undefeated
“T-City” has never lost. Not as an amateur, not as a professional. He is undefeated at 14-0-1 with a No Contest ruling after a hot test following his UFC debut in 2014.
There is something that has to be said for having a killer instinct in this game. Ortega certainly has it, and fortunately for fight fans, so does his next opponent.
Going For Gold
UFC President Dana White made the call to offer Ortega a title fight against current featherweight champion Max “Blessed” Holloway.
I also love Max Holloway. He’s an incredibly gifted fighter with a true warrior spirit (see Ricardo Lamas fight), and for that reason, I’m torn on the matchup. Holloway is not the champion by accident and there’s a reason why his winning streak is amongst the longest running in the sport.
Rumored for a spot on the card during international fight week (as long as Holloway’s broken foot is healed in time), this classic styles clash will certainly be a spectacle worth watching.
–Jordan Kurtz is a founding member of Comments From The Peanut Gallery