Giga Chikadze is anxious to get back to work.
The featherweight contender has been out of action for more than a year after undergoing several surgeries to repair various injuries, but now that he’s healthy again, Chikadze hopes to have his next fight booked at one of the major summer cards in the UFC. According to Chikadze, talks have started to potentially match him up against Brian Ortega, with most of the other top 145-pound fighters already tied up. Chikadze and Ortega are currently No. 12 and No. 5 (tied) respectively in the MMA Fighting Global Rankings.
“All the fighters, they have opponents, they’re scheduled with each other,” Chikadze told MMA Fighting. “Now we’re waiting for someone to step up. We had the talk with the UFC and they mentioned [Brian] Ortega’s name and I heard that he had intentions to fight me.
“I was told he likes this fight and he wants to do this in the summer, which I would love to do that as well. I had the same intentions. We know each other, we have a good relationship, we have multiple friends between us, but we are professionals and I would love to test myself against him.”
Ortega has sat near the top of the featherweight rankings for several years, falling short in two attempts at becoming champion with past fights against Alexander Volkanovski and Max Holloway. Most recently, Ortega suffered a first-round TKO loss to Yair Rodriguez after enduring a painful shoulder injury that forced a stop to the contest.
As for Chikadze, his own nine-fight win streak came to an end with his recent loss to Calvin Kattar, which only adds to his anticipation to return to the octagon sooner rather than later so he can wash the bad taste of that performance from his mouth.
While no formal offer has been made for the matchup, Chikadze knows he’s interested and he’s heard the same from Ortega’s camp.
“I think that’s the fight to make happen,” Chikadze said. “I heard that the UFC loves this fight and I heard from Brian as well that he loves the fight, so he has the intention to do it. That’s all we need. I like it, he likes it, the UFC likes it, I’m sure the fans will enjoy this fight.
“He’s a very entertaining guy,” Chikadze continued. “He has a big fan base. He comes forward. He has nasty jiu-jitsu and good striking coming forward, Mexican spirit. I would love to have a little experience with him in the octagon.”
Chikadze revealed that he first interacted with Ortega before he even signed with the UFC when they met through a mutual friend and ended up gambling together in Las Vegas.
“Actually Brian is a pretty cool guy,” Chikadze said. “I have nothing against him personally. I don’t remember if we trained with each other. I don’t think we ever trained but his gym is like two minutes away from my gym. I train at King’s [MMA] and he trains at HB Ultimate, Tiki [Ghosn’s] gym.
“So a funny story, a long, long time ago I visited Las Vegas, I don’t remember but I think [Fabricio] Werdum and Beneil Dariush were fighting at that time and I was hanging out with Jon Tuck, and he wanted to see his friend [who happened to be Ortega] and I didn’t know who he was and we ended up playing craps together with Ortega’s table.”
Despite training at different gyms, Chikadze says he runs into Ortega quite often considering they both work out in the same neighborhood and they’ve even shared space at the same recovery center in Huntington Beach, Calif.
There was actually a time when Chikadze says he invited Ortega to get some work in with him and the team at King’s MMA, which is led by famed trainer Rafael Cordeiro, but his request was declined.
“I remember very well I invited him to train a long time ago, I was not in the UFC, but I invited him to come train with us at King’s and he kind of said no,” Chikadze said. “He had his own team and it would be disrespectful [to them] or something like that, but I could feel that he could see that we could be future opponents.”
On paper, the fight would test Chikadze’s striking against Ortega’s grappling, but the Georgian fighter hopes that each of them would get the chance to work outside their comfort zone.
In fact, Chikadze has been working tirelessly on his grappling ever since moving to the United States full-time, but he’s rarely been afforded the chance to display those skills in the UFC. Perhaps a fight against a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt like Ortega would afford Chikadze that opportunity.
“I’m a purple belt,” Chikadze said. “I haven’t gotten my belt [advanced] in a long time but all this time I’ve been training jiu-jitsu at King’s, plus now I became friends [with] Leo Vieira, who is the Checkmat head, and now I’m training some grappling, jiu-jitsu training with him as well, and I don’t believe I’m just a striker anymore.”
Ideally, Chikadze would have preferred to book a fight earlier this year, especially after a planned matchup against “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung fell apart.
Delaying his return for a few more months isn’t preferable, but Chikadze revealed that Ortega is dealing with some minor injuries of his own that will prevent him from competing until the summer. It’s not the best scenario, but Chikadze is willing to wait because Ortega is exactly the kind of opponent he wants.
“Realistically, I’m looking at the end of July, beginning of August,” Chikadze said. “It’s what I’m thinking what’s going to happen. I’ve been ready since the middle of last year. I’m putting in some hard work. Any time the UFC calls me, I said yes to all of my opponents every single time and they know my number.”