When rising UFC star and featherweight title contender Brian Ortega spoke out about his desire to give back to those less fortunate than himself following his recent high-profile wins in the Octagon it seems that he caught the attention of one of the world’s most famous actors – Robert Downey Jr.
The only catch was that at first Ortega wasn’t exactly sure who he was.
“I got a call…they’re saying ‘RDJ’ and they kept saying it’s RDJ and I’m like ‘who’s RDJ’ and they said ‘Robert Downey Jr.’ and I said ‘who’s Robert Downey Jr.'” Ortega told reporters at a UFC 226 media lunch this week. “I didn’t want to say this but I’ll say it now. I didn’t really understand cause I don’t follow sports in general and they said ‘RDJ’s going to Facetime you’ and I’m like OK, I’m finally going to find out who this is.
“I get the Facetime and I’m like ‘holy s–t it’s Iron Man!’. Then I played I cool and I’m like ‘hey bro we’re working out’ and I looked at my coach and I’m like ‘I’ve got to go to the car, Iron Man is on the phone, Tony Stark!”
The two spoke on the phone and it soon turned out they had a lot in common.
“I got on the phone and we started talking and he was one of the most realest people I’ve ever met. He asked me where I live and and I go ‘I’m in Carson’ and he goes ‘no way’ and he told me some stuff and he was like ‘I’ve been to Carson [police] station before I went to Twin Towers’ before he got locked up and I was like no way, I have too. We kind of bonded over that situation and it was just cool. To see someone at that level just be so real.”
“For me it was easy to bond with and after that we just kind of set up a relationship and he just texts me and I text him. He’s cool.”
As well as becoming fast friends the relationship has also proven to be beneficial for Ortega as he looks to become more involved with charity work.
“In the Cub [Swanson] fight, I said I want to get people’s attention. After the Frankie [Edgar] fight, I said the same thing. I finally got someone’s attention. Not only that but I feel like he feels me from how I grew up cause I didn’t realize but he’s been through way ups and downs as well, worse than I have. I feel like he’s seeing a little bit of that in me and he knows that I want to help people and he decided to help me help people, which is what I wanted.
“People such as Robert Downey Jr. and other people to reach out and say ‘hey bro what can I do to help you help people?’. He did something with the “Avengers” movie premiere and he invited me to the movie premiere as well. From the UFC to red carpet Hollywood was something different and I loved it. I was just amazing for him to do that.”
And it seems to be working as Ortega claims that his charity works, which includes a T-City Scholarship’ that provides children aged 6 to 16 with a free year of training at any certified Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy, is so far proving to be a big success.
“So far the Foundation is just going through the roof. I thought it was going to be a good turnout but it’s turning out even faster than what I prepared it to be. Now I can’t wait for this fight to be done so I can go back to helping people.”