Brian Ortega desperately wanted to stay in his fight against “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung at UFC Busan this weekend, but his body told him different.
The former featherweight title contender recently revealed the details surrounding the injury, which forced him out of the upcoming main event in South Korea. Ortega suffered a partially torn ACL that prevented him fighting in December, which means he won’t compete at all in 2019 after last competing for the title in 2018.
“It was during wrestling,” Ortega said when speaking to the “UFC Unfiltered” podcast. “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.”
Despite knowing something was clearly wrong with his knee. Ortega tried to push through the pain because he didn’t want to drop out of the fight with Jung.
He did everything from treatments in hot tubs and ice baths along with taking anti-inflammatory drugs just hoping that his knee would feel good enough that he could fight.
“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 received the diagnosis on his knee and he had to inform the UFC that he was dropping out of the fight on Dec. 21.
If there was a silver lining to the dark cloud hanging over Ortega’s head from the injury, it was the news that he won’t be forced to undergo surgery to repair any damage done. Instead, he needs to rehabilitate his knee while giving himself enough time to allow the injury to heal before he can book his next fight.
“I’m doing a lot of rehab,” Ortega 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.”
Judging by the timeline for his recovery, Ortega would likely be able to return sometime in early 2020, and he still likes the idea of facing “The Korean Zombie” in his next fight, but he’s also keeping a watchful eye on the rest of the featherweight contenders to see who might be available.
“I think he’s still on the radar,” Ortega said about rebooking the fight with 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.”