Brian Ortega claims he was only able to train at 30 percent after suffering a partial ACL tear just a few weeks out from his UFC headliner with Chan Sung Jung, which is why ‘T-City’ ultimately decided to withdraw from the fight.
“It was during wrestling,” Ortega said. “It was a Friday, Thanksgiving Friday or somewhere around there and I went to spar, regular sparring, whatever did everything. I have two fresh guys every two and a half minutes, fourth round I had the second fresh guy and he went for a single leg [takedown] against the wall and I tried to get out of it.
“He hiked it up, my knee stayed against the wall, my ankle went up and I just heard a big old tear. I heard a crazy noise in it and trying to figure out what it was and he thought it was the Velcro from my shin pad. I was like no dude, that was my knee.”
Ortega tried to will his way through training camp but says his body ultimately gave out.
“The second day I couldn’t walk and I was on crutches. After that, I was like no guys, I have to fight. I have to do this. We’re pretty much like three weeks out. I was like let’s see what we can do,” Ortega said.
“I gave myself a week and then after a week I tried training again and they’re like yeah you’re moving and yeah you’re back but this isn’t you. It’s like a 30 percent you.”
Ortega is currently undergoing rehab for his ACL tear but expects to fight Jung — better known as ‘Korean Zombie’ — sometime early next year.
“I’m doing a lot of rehab,” he said. “I’m already doing things on it. They said two more months of rehab. I’ve been rehabbing everyday. Right now, I’m pretty much doing everything I used to do but around the injury while I’m rehabbing the injury.
“I’m still keeping up my same program. I’m still eating the same things. I’m still working out. I’m still moving. The other day I woke up at 165 [pounds] still. Like my body is ready for war.”
“I think he’s still on the radar,” Ortega said of Jung. “There’s a couple guys out there if Alex Volkanovski and Max [Holloway] are going to rematch each other, it’s trying to decide who’s the next guy that the fans and Dana [White] and everyone want to see me fight in order to just climb my way back up and prove myself again.”
The UFC announced last week that Frankie Edgar had stepped in as Ortega’s replacement and will take on Korean Zombie in the new UFC on ESPN+ 23 main event, which takes place this Saturday, Dec. 21 Sajik Arena in Busan, South Korea.