Ultimate Fighting Championship featherweight king Alexander Volkanovski learned a lot about upcoming opponent Brian Ortega while filming their season of “The Ultimate Fighter.”
On Thursday, Volkanovski appeared on “The Joe Rogan Experience”, where he spoke to longtime commentator Joe Rogan about Season 29 of TUF. Both Volkanovski and Ortega were slated to meet at UFC 260 in March, but the match was pushed back several months when Volkanovski contracted COVID-19. The promotion elected to place them as coaches of the revived 29th season of TUF, and Volkanovski believes the two will face off sometime in early September in the U.S. – potentially at UFC 266 on Sept. 4.
Volkanovski frequently tried to get a read on his adversary, and admitted he tried to get under Ortega’s skin a few times as the season progressed. More importantly, Volkanovski does not buy into the persona that he believes Ortega has crafted.
“To be honest, he doesn’t say much,” Volkanovski remarked. “He doesn’t say much, I don’t know. I’m a bit over him, to be honest. Just a couple things, I just think he’s fake, he’s fake, and I don’t believe his s---, so that’s just sort of how it is with me, that’s what I think.”
Rogan questioned him on this remark, and how Volkanovski meant this.
“I think he plays a nice guy, and some of the s--- he says, I just think it’s all bulls---…I don’t think he’s that bad of a guy, maybe I’m just looking for things to hate on him for, maybe, yeah, probably. So I’m just sitting there like ‘f--- Brian Ortega,’ I’m gonna find something to hate him for. Maybe that’s what it was…but like I said, it’s not hard to get under his skin. Even me just saying that, I guarantee he’s boiling up.
“Maybe that’s gonna be strategy for my next fight, because I know how easily he’s triggered. So, I’m just gonna be like, ‘Hey, Brian, f--- you,’ and that’s it.”
When asked what the experience is like spending a lot of off time around a man he is preparing to fight soon, Volkanovski reiterated his feelings on Ortega.
“I went in there [to film TUF] and just knew [I’m on] a reality TV show, he’s gonna be there, whatever. It’s funny, because you’re trying to get reads on him and things like that, but, again, I just think he’s f---in awkward. He’s an awkward dude,” Volkanovski admitted, before passing the question to fellow coach and grappling wizard Craig Jones, who was also involved in the season.
Jones, who serves as the jiu-jitsu coach on Volkanovski’s team, was part of the pranks that were pulled on Ortega’s team. In typical TUF fashion, scatological pranks including urination and inserting objects into orifices were teased. One such prank, where Jones implied that he was placing Ortega’s COVID-19 swab between his buttocks, nearly cost Jones his coaching position.
As Rogan, Volkanovski and Jones were watching video of this prank, Jones remarked, “They actually almost fired me for this one, so I probably crossed the line a little too much.”
Jones continued, discussing additional prank options involving the regular COVID-19 tests – the participants were tested five times each week.
“I did have some ideas for some COVID pranks, because obviously we’re trying to get [Ortega], but they did tell me, because they spent so much money on COVID testing, they were like ‘that’s a line we can’t cross.’ But, I just couldn’t resist, it was just sitting there. That test was just sitting in the same section.”
Rogan concluded by breaking down some of the method and madness behind the pranks, season filming and forced drama on TUF.
“Yeah, I get it,” Rogan said with a laugh. “Listen, it makes sense to me. You gotta do what you gotta do. But it’s part of the show, right? It’s f---ing with everybody…and the more conflict there is, the better the ratings are, the better the show does, the better it is for everybody when you guys have a big fight.”