Brian Ortega was the smallest kid at the famed Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy.
But once this kid from a housing project in San Pedro locked in a triangle choke, how big you were meant nothing. Coach Rener Gracie called him "T-City" for a reason. Nobody was getting out of that hold.
So how did Alexander Volkanovski, a former pint-sized rugby league prop from Windang, not only escape the hold under the bright lights of Las Vegas but end up dominating the round?
"I'm a normal human being," the UFC featherweight champion insists. "Hard work got me to where I am. Everyone can do what I've done."
Only, few have. "Nobody gets out of that," former two-division champion Daniel Cormier said on commentary.
"I thought he was done," Ortega said. "I was trying to go for his head, but he's tough as hell. I tried to finish him. I heard him gargling, but he slipped out. He's the champ for a reason."
Of that, there is no question. He is the champion, one of the best pound for pound fighters on the planet, and one of the division's greatest of all time. Volkanovski defended his featherweight crown with a unanimous decision win over Ortega in the main event of UFC 266 on Sunday [AEST].
The 32-year-old overcame adversity twice in the third round, when it seemed he was on the verge of submitting twice, to find himself on the right side of scorecards reading 49-46, 50-45 and 50-44.
Volkanovski's record improves to 23-1. Among the names on his resume are Chad Mendes, Jose Aldo, Max Holloway - twice - and now Ortega, who falls to 15-2 with one no contest.
The third round was arguably the round of the year. At least in the discussion.
A clash of heads had bloodied Ortega's nose, yet in the blink of an eye the challenger dropped Volkanovski and locked in a tight guillotine.
"It was deep. It was 'oh f--k, I'm about to lose the belt' deep," Volkanovski said.
"But again, the type of human being I am, we talk about going through adversity, always being prepared and busting my ass and a never give up attitude. That's exactly what you're seeing.
"That was deep. That was as deep as it can get, no shit. I was making f---ing weird noises. That was like 'oh f--k, I'm about to lose this belt'.
"I got my chin out and then he chucked me in the triangle as well. T-City, he's known for his jiu-jitsu. Credit to him, I had to really dig deep to get out of there. I've shown time and time again, I dig deep. That's what champions are made of."
It was deep. It was 'oh f--k, I'm about to lose the belt' deep.Alexander Volkanovski on the guillotine choke he was caught in
Ortega was perhaps lucky to make it out of the round and struggled to his stool. He was cleared to continue, but his biggest moment was behind him.
UFC president Dana White did not front the post-fight press conference. Perhaps it was a pre-emptive strike against questions about Nick Diaz, who waved off his own fight against Robbie Lawler during the third round of a rematch 17 years in the making.
Perhaps it was to avoid more questions about Jon Jones, the heavyweight contender who was arrested in Las Vegas this week and now faces charges of battery domestic violence and injuring and tampering with a vehicle.
White has spoken to that already, conceding "it's not even shocking anymore". The city of Las Vegas and the former light heavyweight king, clearly, is a recipe for disaster.
Regardless, White's absence denied those waiting a chance to hear what he makes of Volkanovski's latest outing, and the legacy he is creating, after carving out another piece of history.
There could be more to come for the man on a 20-fight win streak, who says a shot at Charles Oliveira's lightweight championship could be on the horizon.
"We've got Yair [Rodriguez] and Max [Holloway] fighting, I'm guessing that's for the No. 1 contender. Whoever wins that, gets that shot. That's not until November and I want to fight," Volkanovski said.
"Do I move up to lightweight, do something. Maybe move up to lightweight and fight the champion. Give me something. I had 14 months off.
"I'm thinking of even bringing the family over and staying here for a year, ride out this lockdown thing because it's a mess. That's why I said this fight was for everyone back home struggling. They're going through tough times in New Zealand and Australia.
"We've got to talk to the family, talk to the team, and see what's our best move. Maybe we ride it out here, smash some fights out, build everything up and kick some arse."
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