Dustin Ortiz can expect to be the enemy when he faces Jussier da Silva at UFC Fight Night 95 in Brasilia, Brazil, on Saturday night.
However, the prospect of thousands of Brazilians cheering against him doesn’t seem all that unpleasant after some prior experiences earlier in his career. In a larger venue like Nilson Nelson Gymnasium, the taunts and boos tend to blend together like white noise.
In Ortiz’s eighth professional bout, he fought fellow UFC flyweight Ian McCall in a parking lot at Tachi Palace Fights 9. According to the Roufusport product, the more intimate setting makes for a unique interaction with the cageside fans.
“The difference between the experiences is that, when I was in the parking lot, it was outside and there were just enough people where I could hear everyone calling me every name in the book,” Ortiz said on the Sherdog Radio Network’s “Beatdown” show. “The first time I fought in Brazil there was 10,000 people before the buses even pulled up, so I can’t hear a word they’re saying. I can’t even understand them. I just go with it. They’re cheering, the passion’s there. That’s what I’m there for. Whether they’re booing for me or cheering for me it doesn’t matter, it’s just the energy that they provide....It’s quite a bit different hearing the names crystal clear.”
The aforementioned McCall bout occurred in May 2011, before the UFC introduced the flyweight division. At the time, Ortiz was trying to get bigger, because competing at 135 pounds seemed like his only ticket to the bigger shows. The Las Vegas-based promotion introduced the 125-pound division in 2012, and Ortiz made his Octagon debut in November 2013. Although he was helping to carry the torch for smaller fighters before it became more lucrative to do so, Ortiz doesn’t necessarily see himself as a pioneer.
“I never sat back and thought that way. I’ve had a bunch of people say, ‘You’re one of the first guys.’ It never crossed my mind because I was always used to watching the UFC, watching the WEC. They had 35ers there. Everybody is fighting; it doesn’t matter weight class,” Ortiz said. “There were other flyweights out there. I knew that. In that stage of my career I was bulking for 35 so I could make the WEC...I never really sat back and thought, ‘I’m paving the way for this brand new weight class.’”
Since winning his promotional debut with a first-round stoppage of Jose Maria Tome, Ortiz has faced a difficult run in the UFC. His three losses have come to two former title challengers -- John Moraga, Joseph Benavidez -- and one fighter who was supposed to challenge for flyweight gold earlier this summer -- Wilson Reis. He’s also bested young talents such as Justin Scoggins, Ray Borg and Willie Gates.
“There’s a lot going into it..I hope the UFC sees that. My first fight was in Brazil against a Brazilian, a very tough one at that. My second fight was against John Moraga, he had come off a title fight. It’s been no less than the best since I been in there,” he said. “My last fight [a decision loss to Reis] is something that I carry with me just to remind me that anything that’s not 100 percent in focus, that’s what you come up with. I had some mental games going on with my head. That’s what happens. You’ve got to be 100 percent focused and be 100 percent in while you’re in.”
That path won’t change against Formiga, who is ranked No. 5 by Sherdog.com and No. 3 by UFC.com. “Formiga” has ranked among the 125-pound elite for the better part of seven years and is coming off a loss to Olympic gold medalist Henry Cejudo that could have netted him a crack at reigning champ Demetrious Johnson had the outcome gone the other way.
With that in mind, Ortiz plans on being much more mentally focused than he was against Reis.
“I’ve switched things up for this fight camp and tried to regain focus for what my purpose and goals are in my fighting career and the UFC,” he said. “This fight is very important. Once again, it’s against the No. 3 guy in Brazil. He’s the best of the best. He’s right where he should be. He’s fought nothing but the best guys. I’m still taking it a fight at a time. I never want to look ahead....I want to look at the long run a little bit but I never want to lose focus on the fight in front of me.”