Will BJJ phenom, Brian "T-City" Ortega be UFC Featherweight Champ?
Brian "T-City" Ortega grew up in a section 8 housing project in San Pedro, California where his early years were filled with struggle and turmoil. In a recent interview, Brian said “I was active … I was on the street. I was out there, man. I would’ve been …I don’t know, man .. in jail or dead,” the Lomita resident says when assessing the possibilities of a life without discovering Brazilian JiuJitsu at age 13. “The way everything is going, I would not be where I’d be right now. There’s a lot of times when I shouldn’t have been here. I go, ‘Man, I’m blessed.
In a recent interview (The Brian Ortega Story) Brian spoke about his Mentor, Rener Gracie, saying, "Rener believed in me, and he never closed that door." The academy was my escape. I came out of here almost like baptized every time. I would do something stupid, i'd come in here i'd spar and Id train hard and I was baptized."
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In the same interview, Rener Gracie talked about Brian not showing up to train for two or three months, then show up and say one of his best friends was shot. Rener said he worried Brian would eventually end up shot or in jail. “It was years before I knew what we were dealing with in that early Brian Ortega, that timid-looking little guy, how much past he had brought with him,” Gracie said. “Most kids don’t have that much past by 13 years old.” Rener said it was a matter of always being there for the troubled Ortega without judging him. Brian's loyalties to the streets kept him in trouble, while his Gracie JiuJitsu skill set had his name circling around the local "under ground" fighting scene. At 17, having met and trained with striking coach, James Luhrsen, Ortega began his amateur MMA career where he went 11-0 before turning pro at age 20. “Rener never really cared for it (MMA Fighting),” Ortega said. “It’s not that he didn’t care for the fighting, it’s just that it was never forced on me.” Rener Gracie is quick to point out he never forced Ortega to fight professionally in the Octagon. I’ll make that real clear,” Gracie confirmed. Ortega agreed, “he (Rener) was like, ‘I’ll have your back. I’ll be there," Ortega said. “He was like, you know you don’t have to fight, you know that, right?" "You don’t have to prove anything to me." “So all the determination – ‘I wanna fight, I wanna fight’ – it was, ‘OK, I’ll be there,’” Gracie said, “It was never, ‘Come on, Brian, you’ve got this! You can be a professional! You can be the best in the world!’ I did not say that ever.” Rener not pressuring Ortega to fight in the cage has allowed Ortega to be relaxed in the Octagon. Ortega regards Gracie as the older brother he never had. He also compares him to a scientist, always experimenting new hypotheses and techniques on lower belts before perfecting them on black belts and presenting his findings to his prized student. So much has changed – the way Ortega talks and trains – that he is now seeing everything differently. “I still feel new. I feel like I’m finally discovering things about myself that I didn’t even know existed,” Ortega said. “Making things happen is one thing. I just keep … I’m seeing things. That’s what the difference is. Before I never saw anything. I would see something in the cage and take it. “But now pattern recognition has really stuck with me, how the movement of someone is. How you jab and they move. How their foot moves when they throw something. The littlest details are starting to make sense.”
Ortega is 14-0 with 7 submission wins, His nickname, "T-City," was earned by submitting dozens of people with the "Triaingle choke." Although Ortega is well known for his triangle choke, Ortega has used many very basic white belt Brazilian JiuJitsu self defense techniques while in the UFC Octagon. Now, 14 years later, Ortega, the top-ranked undefeated 145-pounder in the UFC, will challenge Max Holloway for his featherweight title Saturday at UFC 226 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.