UFC featherweight Brian Ortega made a massive, life-changing move when he became the first man to ever finish or knock out the notoriously durable Frankie Edgar.
But before his time in the UFC, Ortega was a struggling child of Mexican immigrants living in the housing projects of Los Angeles.
Growing up in that environment unfortunately causes misery for all who inhabit it, and living in the projects led Ortega’s sister’s involvement in drugs:
“You know when you see people talking to themselves and you go, ‘Oh, I feel sorry for that person. Well, I’m driving and I see that person and that person was my sister. So I dragged her in the car and took her home.”
Ortega is currently preparing for the biggest fight in his career thus far, taking on featherweight champion Max Holloway at the blockbuster UFC 226 card in July. However, Ortega still remembers having to watch over his sister during those difficult times, forcing the 27-year-old to grow up far quicker than he should have.
These days, Ortega and his siblings have patched things up, especially after one particular blowout in front of their mother:
“I slip up, I fall asleep. She makes her way around me and then I chase her and I grab her. She starts scratching me and hitting me. I got so mad that I put her against the wall and started kind of choking her. And then my other sister comes behind me and starts choking me. And you got these three f*ck-ups fighting each other. Then I look over and I see my mom’s face and she’s crying and she’s like, what did I do in my life to deserve this? Ever since then, it just kind of stuck with me.”
While the featherweight contender acknowledges his difficult upbringing, Ortega says that environment pushed him to move out and eventually pursue a career in MMA:
“I’m not saying my parents were bad when I say these things. They were busy. They had to work, they had to do their things to keep us afloat, so we didn’t have that luxury for all of us to sit down. My house was a revolving door. You walk in, you walk out, you get whatever you can eat, you leave, you go hang out with friends. I’m on my mission, my sister’s on another mission, my dad is working trying to provide, my mom is trying to do the same thing. And somehow we’re all co-existing with each other. My house always had at least 14 people in it. And one bathroom. So I didn’t really want to be home.”
It’s surprising to hear these things from the now-polished and poised Ortega, who at 27 truly has seen and dealt with some unfortunate things like drug abuse in the family.