While the bad blood is plain for all to see, “The Korean Zombie” Jung Chan-sung says he expects to face the Brian Ortega he respects as a fighter when the pair finally meet at UFC Fight Night in Abu Dhabi on Sunday.
The featherweight foes were supposed to face-off in December in Jung’s native South Korea, but Ortega was forced to withdraw because of a knee injury. Jung, whose professional mixed martial arts record stands at 16-5 (6-4 UFC), went on to defeat Frankie Edgar by first-round TKO.
However, the rivalry with Ortega has since become incredibly more heated - and public - boiling over when the Mexican-American allegedly slapped Jung’s friend, singer Jay Park, on the sidelines at UFC 248 in March.
It is sure to making for compelling viewing come the eagerly anticipated collision at Flash Forum on Sunday morning, which brings to a close the penultimate event on a second Fight Island series in the capital.
Speaking at media day at the W Abu Dhabi – Yas Island hotel on Wednesday night, Jung said that, while he doesn’t necessarily like Ortega, he realises the threat posed by the division’s No 2-ranked challenger.
“As an individual we’re obviously not on the best terms,” Jung, the No 4-ranked contender, said via translation. “But as Brian Ortega the fighter, I respect him to the utmost. I’ve been a fan of him, all his fights I’ve watched, and I’m actually amazed by some of the things he’s been able to accomplish. So I’m expecting the Brian Ortega as the fighter to step into that cage.”
Ortega (14-1 in MMA, 6-1 UFC) has not fought since his first professional defeat, when he was stopped by then-champion Max Holloway in December 2018. Before that loss, he had reeled off six successive victories since stepping into the octagon – all via finishes.
Jung, of course, has competed much more recently, which clearly could play a significant role in determining the outcome of the contest.
“It’s only been 10 months [for me], Ortega’s been 23 months,” he said. “It isn’t too big a deal. I still have the ball rolling, the momentum is shifting, and I haven’t skipped a beat.
On what his returning opponent might bring to the battle, Jung said: “We can only go off the film we’ve seen of him. Eventually when the fight starts to open up, he is who he is, he’s going to come out the way he is.
“I can only trust what we’ve prepared to do and what we’ve planned to do. We’re kind of expecting a different type of Ortega, but we can only guess. No one can really know how he’s going to come out.
“Ortega is a tough guy to knock out. He’s got an unbelievable chin – he’s never been knocked out or knocked down. He was able to get hit about 300 times against Holloway and he still wasn’t dropped.
"So that kind of adversary is going to be a tough guy to knock out. I’m ready to go five rounds. At the end of the day I just want to get that ‘W’.”
With the win, Jung would rightfully move into serious title contention, with only Zabit Magomedsharipov, Ortega and Holloway between him and current champion Alexander Volkanovski in the standings.
“I wanted to fight Holloway, I thought that would have been an exciting fight and match-up,” Jung said. “But the UFC wanted [a fight] with a little bit of the tension and bad blood. But at the end of the day, I’m happy because [Ortega is] a ranking above me. It doesn’t matter if I have to fight [number] three, two or one, I have to go through the top guys in order to get to the championship.”