Featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski branded title challenger Brian Ortega a “f*cking drug cheat” in a heated staredown before the pair meet in their main event at UFC 266 in Las Vegas.
Volkanovski makes the second defense of his 135lbs belt against his American rival at the T-Mobile Arena on Saturday night, and ahead of the bout the Australian claimed he had only just found out about Ortega’s past ban for taking a prohibited substance.
WARNING: STRONG LANGUAGE
— UFC (@ufc) September 23, 2021
Ortega tested positive for drostanolone – a type of steroid – following his victory over Mike De La Torre back in 2014.
The Californian fighter was suspended for nine months and slapped with a $2,500 fine, with the win being changed to a ‘no contest’.
Ortega apologized and has since competed eight times without failing a test.
Volkanovski, however, unloaded on Ortega as the pair faced off at Thursday’s press conference.
“I didn’t know about you popping,” said an angry Volkanovski as UFC boss Dana White kept the pair apart.
“That sh*t don’t sit well with me. You don’t deserve to be here. Mate, you’re a f*cking drug cheat.”
— Hassan Hirsi (@TherealHassanO) September 24, 2021
The 32-year-old champ appears to have only just found out about Ortega’s case despite the pair appearing together as captains of rival teams on the latest edition of reality TV show ‘The Ultimate Fighter’.
In response, Ortega later told ESPN journalist Brett Okamoto that Volkanovski could “come get at me in person, one on one.”
“Where I come from, if you got an issue with me, we f*cking fight, we square up and we do what we want.”
Volkanovski scoffed at that idea, saying: “Don’t think for one minute I wouldn’t fight you in the streets as well. But the beauty of it, we get paid to do it on [Saturday].”
Volkanovski says it’s not a show for cameras #UFC266
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) September 24, 2021
The 22-1 Aussie picked up the featherweight strap with a unanimous decision victory over long-time ruler Max Holloway in December 2019, before defending it against the Hawaiian in a split decision win in July of last year.
Volkanovski was dismissive of the threat posed by the “unprofessional” Ortega, whose only defeat in his 17 professional outings came at the hands of Holloway at UFC 231 in December of 2018.
“I’ve said it all week. Unprofessional and weakness, you know what I mean? What upsets me the most is [he’s] unprofessional. I put the hard yards in my whole life, especially in this career. That’s how I got this belt,” said Volkanovski.
“Obviously, showing weakness a few years back popping [for PEDs], producing, that sh*t annoys me. It’s unprofessional and I ain’t about that sh*t.”
Keep that same energy ⚡️
— UFC (@ufc) September 23, 2021
Saturday’s co-main event at the T-Mobile Arena also sees a title on the line as women’s flyweight ruler Valentina Shevchenko takes on challenger Lauren Murphy.
Also on the card is the return of fan favorite Nick Diaz to the UFC octagon following an absence of more than six years, as he meets Robbie Lawler in a rematch which comes 17 years after the pair first threw down at UFC 47.
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