But like any fighter in the modern era with championship aspirations, the native of LA’s South Bay suburbs can’t help but think about becoming a champ-champ.
Ortega has been as interested a spectator as anyone else in recent years, so when he sees a champion vs. champion fight, he can’t help but insert himself into the situation.
“You look at some of these guys who make superfights,” Ortega told reporters in Los Angeles on Monday at a UFC 231 media event. “And you’re like, damn, I wish I was a part of that fight. I like superfights. I want superfights. I want guys that I can match up well where people don’t know what going to happen.”
If the undefeated Ortega defeats Holloway for the championship this weekend, the idea of going up to 155 and challenging the champ is appealing. And the Gracie jiu-jitsu standout is more interested in the stylistic makings of a bout with current titleholder Khabib Nurmagomedov than chasing the dollars of a Conor McGregor money fight.
“Every grappler, we have this since even before I was training, this whole wrestler vs. jiu-jitsu,” Ortega said. “We get along in the gym and we’re always like, you know, this is a matchup. Our hands are both good. He’s a top game guy and a wrestler and I’m a bottom game guy and a jiu-jitsu guy.”
When watching Nurmagomedov’s fourth-round win over McGregor at UFC 229, Ortega found himself looking at the predicaments on the mat McGregor repeatedly found himself in, and thought he would have found a way out of Khabib’s relentless ground-and-pound assaults.
“I was watching a lot of things in that fight, where, if I was in that position, there’s a lot of things I’d be doing differently,” Ortega said. “And that kind of just made me realize, kind of just, what I want is a superfight, if I ever get there, and it’s within reach. If I play my cards right, it’s within reach.”
But, first things first. Ortega knows he needs to take care of business against Holloway on Saturday. And then he can go try to drum up some business with his promoter.
“I’ve got these ideas I want to go for, if I’m successful hopefully I can start asking Dana White for them,” said Ortega.