UFC Fighter Brian Ortega Out 9-12 Months From Not Tapping To Ryron Gracie
UFC featherweight prospect Brian Ortega will be out for nine to 12 months after suffering a torn labrum in his right shoulder while training.
Ortega, ranked 10th in the UFC’s 145-pound division, confirmed the reason for recently pulling out of his Oct. 1 fight against Hacran Dias at UFC Fight Night 96 in Portland, Ore.
He is scheduled to undergo surgery next Thursday — a procedure he had done on his left shoulder five years ago.
“My heart’s telling me I can beat Hacran Dias even with one arm. And I truly believe I can,” said Ortega (11-0, 1 NC). “But at the same time, I don’t think my mind will let me forgive myself if I gave him that chance and let the whole world say that he beat me and he stopped me.
“I don’t want to do a decision based off of ego and pride. So now I just have to make a wise decision.”
Almost seven months after nearly dying in a surfing accident, Ortega has another setback.
In an interview Wednesday, Ortega and trainer James Luhrsen explained the circumstances, at times shaking their heads in frustration with the Aug. 25 training incident as well as what they feel was a missed opportunity.
“Everything was going perfect,” said Ortega, who lives in Lomita and trains at Black House MMA Gym in Gardena and the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy in Torrance.
“Training was going good. Our game planning. Everything was just right on the dot.”
Coming off a third-round TKO of veteran Clay Guida at UFC 199 in June at The Forum, the 25-year-old Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt was looking to improve his craft ahead of his fight against the 11th-ranked Dias.
It was in a spirited session with renowned Brazilian jiu-jitsu expert Ryron Gracie that Ortega, who often rolls with Ryron’s brother Rener, suffered the injury.
“We had this crazy battle of face shots, him on top, me on the bottom and we’re both hitting each other,” Ortega recalled. “James could tell it was getting wild, like, ‘All right, these guys are not even training.’”
In the fourth round, the overzealous battle continued. Gracie caught Ortega in an armbar and the former RFA champion tried to shake the larger Gracie off. When he couldn’t, Ortega described it as almost like putting his own right arm in a kimura, or a double-joint armlock.
“My hand got caught somewhere and then my arm came out,” Ortega said.
Once he got Gracie to disengage, Ortega said he clicked his arm back into the joint.
By then, the damage was done — and everyone knew it.
“Right when I was talking to the guys, it was heating up. It wasn’t the same roll I always see with Rener and Brian,” Luhrsen said. “Right when I went in there, ready to go and stop it, Brian pops up.”
Luhrsen spit out an expletive at the memory, then followed with, “I was so pissed off.”
Ortega said he rested for three days before returning to training. He was lifting weights and getting back to his routine, but the pain did not subside. Not only was his arm sore, but he couldn’t feel three of his fingers.
Despite not being able to throw a right hook, Ortega continued to train and spar with the intention of fighting Dias.
“He looked great in there. If he was fully healthy, he could take anyone in the world,” Luhrsen said.
A session on the mat, however, exposed Ortega’s limitations without full use of his right arm.
“The day after that, my arm pretty much gave out,” he said.
Ortega received a platelet-rich plasma injection into the shoulder, which set him back longer. Many told Ortega not to fight, but he was determined even though he couldn’t quickly raise his arm over his head.
When even his father told him not to fight, Ortega ultimately looked to Luhrsen, who has been by his side even before he debuted as a pro in 2010.
Luhrsen’s reply? Let’s see what the doctor says.
The answer was simple and swift.
“Right when I got to the doctor, the doctor was like, ‘That’s a big old no,’” Ortega said. “And James goes, ‘Well, there’s your answer.’”
Ortega was given two choices.
Stitch up the tear and be back in a few months, with the understanding the injury will likely happen again.
Or a full labrum repair that would put him out anywhere from nine months to a year.
Having already had the same surgery on his left shoulder in 2011, Ortega knew the better option.
Having been through it before, however, doesn’t make it easier to stomach.
“Training is my escape. It’s my outlet, you know? And now it’s like, now I gotta go and find out what I really am again and find a different outlet, which is gonna be hard because I have my passion,” Ortega said. “I have my outlet. I have my career. This is my world.”