It was already clear heading into the UFC 266 press conference that featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski didn’t like Brian Ortega. But when standing face-to-face with his opposing coach on The Ultimate Fighter 29, Volkanovski took things up a notch by calling attention to Ortega’s past with performance-enhancing drugs.
UFC President Dana White had to keep an arm on both fighters during the press conference staredowns as they jawed at each other. In the midst of the exchange, Volkanovski said, “I didn’t know about you popping. That sh*t don’t sit well with me. You don’t deserve to be here. Mate, you’re a f*cking drug cheat.”
Volkanovski was referring to a 2014 positive drug test from Ortega that overturned a submission win at UFC on FOX 12 to a no-contest after he came up positive for drostanolone, a well-known steroid. Ortega was suspended for nine months and later apologized for taking the PED before the event.
On the dais during the press conference, Volkanovski was less direct toward Ortega, who mostly sat quiet as the UFC champ called him “unprofessional,” adding he saw “weakness” in the title challenger.
“What upsets me the most is unprofessional,” Volkanovski said. “I’ve put the hard yards in my whole life, especially in this career. That’s how I got this belt. And he half-asses it, turns up training late. You name it.
“Obviously, showing weakness a few years back, popping, producing, you know what I mean? Sh*t like that. That sh*t annoys me. It’s not unprofessional, and I ain’t about that sh*t.”
When Ortega tried to defend himself, it encouraged the already heated Volkanovski to cut him off.
“Man, ever since I got told you popped, I had no idea,” he said. “Since I got told, that’s it. I’m done. That sh*t doesn’t stand with me.”
“You’ve been done, right? Don’t do sh*t about it, though,” replied Ortega.
Volkanovski has repeatedly dismissed Ortega since their time together on TUF 29, which he carried when members of his team defeated opponents from Ortega’s to earn spots in both brackets of the reality show tournament’s finals.
Ortega has expressed confusion about how things got so personal, but on Thursday he said it didn’t matter how seriously he has been taken.
“I’m already here,” he said. “I’m going to share the octagon with him, whether he likes it or not.”
“He deserves to be here, I’ll give him that,” Volkanovski countered. “But he ain’t taking the belt. He doesn’t deserve it.”