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When good dudes beef: what happened to the heat between Ortega and the Korean Zombie?

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Brian Ortega vs. the ‘Korean Zombie’ is a great fight, but after months of buildup it’s lost its edge.

When Paulo Costa first laid eyes on Isreal Adesanya, sparks flew. All the way back to Adesanya’s interim UFC title win in 2019, ‘Borrachinha’ was calling his shot. Some day he and Adesanya would fight. And until that day came, Costa would make a point to keep up a constant war of words with the UFC champion. From cageside at UFC 248, he even made enough of a spectacle of himself that he had to be escorted out of the arena.

The fact that all his theatrics counted for next to nothing on the day, and often wallowed in the lowest of lowbrow humor, was a shame. But, overall Adesanya and Costa took an almost immediate dislike to one another, and neither man backed away from the heat. In combat sports, that’s always the most fun kind of story to tell.

Which is why, having once had some legit beef of their own, it’s kinda too bad to see that Brian Ortega and Chan Sung Jung appear to have buried the hatchet. Especially given that they’re at the exact point where a little extra animosity could really do some work.


The Korean Zombie gets ducked and Jay Park gets slapped

Way back in July of 2019, reports first emerged that the UFC wanted to book TKZ vs. Ortega as the main event for their Mexico City Fight Night in September. That didn’t happen, but it sparked the first inkling of a feud. “You lie too much,” Jung wrote in an Instagram post where he noted that Ortega ‘never tried’ to make the bout a reality.

Jump ahead to February, with Ortega nursing a torn ACL - one that had lead to a much more offical December bout against Jung falling apart - and their beef really began to hit a boiling point. The ‘Korean Zombie’, with a little help from Korean rapper Jay Park, was once again needling Ortega.

“But Ortega already ducked him one time,” Park told ESPN, speaking on Jung’s behalf. “So, he doesn’t need to fight a fighter that’s ducked him already.”

Not the most vile of accusations, but apparently the straw that broke the camel’s back. And when Ortega next saw Jung and Park at UFC 248, he waited until Jung was in the bathroom to confront his rapper-turned-translator, dealing him a slap upside the head.

“I told ya I’d slap you like a bitch,” Ortega could be heard saying on candid footage capturing the altercation.

Ortega later hit him with a quickly-deleted non-apology, saying that while he was sorry for slapping the “translator” and the “K-pop star,” he wouldn’t apologize “for slapping the “instigator.””

The whole thing may have started over next to nothing. But between them, two of the UFC’s least likely foes got themselves good and riled for a potential future bout.

“I will fight you and I will knock you out and your fucking face will be bloody,” Jung wrote in an Instagram post after Ortega’s attack. “Now, your fucking face stays in my mind and I will fuck you up in the cage. I hope you won’t run away from me again.”


Keeping it real went wrong

Unfortunately, if that was the point that the whole affair really started to pop off, it’s also the point when both men decided to take it off the heat. Ortega may have missed the mark on his first chance to say he was sorry, but he was much more upfront about his actions a couple days later.

“When I make a mistake, I own the consequences,” Ortega later posted on Instagram adding that he was wrong to try and initially justify his actions. “But in this case the negativity that I’ve caused has spilled over to the people closest to me, and that’s how I know that what I did was truly wrong. I’m sorry to you guys and my family.”

UFC Seoul Press Conference
A brief bromantic interlude.
Photo by Woohae Cho/Zuffa LLC

Chan Sung Jung, for his part, not only accepted Ortega’s apology. But, eventually he even walked back his past antagonism of Ortega as well. In light of the results, it appears he feels the trash talk that had gotten so far under Ortega’s skin was a poor idea all around.

“I am not a person who enjoys trash talking,” Jung recently told MMA Junkie, “but I tried some of them recently because I thought my fans would like them. But the result was not good and my friend was affected, so I won’t be doing trash talking anymore. I apologize for all the trash talking I did to Ortega and the champion, so I hope Ortega won’t continue trash talking to me anymore.”

Which is all to say, here we are in fight week, and Brian Ortega and Chan Sung Jung are all business. Whether it’s stare downs or interviews or social media, both men are presenting the clean cut image of respectable professionals here to do their jobs and work toward their future goals.

And while that’s all good and fine (and I’m really very happy for them) it just isn’t as much fun as I expected we’d all be having come the day, especially a shot at a UFC belt on the line. If only at least one of them could have kept some real emotionally stunted man-child energy heading into Saturday night, instead of reflecting on their flaws and correcting them like reasonable adults.