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Cody Brundage reacts after his knockout victory over Tresean Gore in their middleweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on July 09, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

Cody Brundage Is Cool With Being The Underdog

UFC Middleweight Cody Brundage Has His Sights Set On Finishing 2022 With Three Wins.

It’s early in the UFC career of Cody Brundage, but after a 2022 campaign in which he’s scored back-to-back finishes of Dalcha Lungiambula and Tresean Gore, there could be the tendency for him to take his foot off the gas a bit and smell the roses.

Nah, not him.

“I'm lucky where I'm at,” said the Factory X standout, who closes out the year with a bout against Michal Olekseijczuk on Saturday. “I tell my coach (Marc Montoya) all the time and I tell my wife (Amanda) all the time, being surrounded with the people I'm surrounded with, sometimes I'm still not believing that I am where I am. They're all in the same profession as me, they're all at the highest level, and I'm not even close to guys like Dustin Jacoby or Brandon Royval, or some of my other teammates. And eventually, I'm gonna have to fight guys like that, and I think just the fear of that probably keeps me hungry, if I'm being honest. It's a lot of fear. (Laughs) It's like, man, there's some real killers out there, and if I'm not doing everything right, it can turn pretty quick.”

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The 28-year-old is being honest, more honest than most in his line of work will be. Remember, this is the land of those who are going into an eight-sided cage with four-ounce gloves and their short pants to go see who the better fighter is. “No fear” is the mantra, but as many wise men have told me over the years, if you’re not nervous, then you’re not doing this right. And Brundage doesn’t shy away from telling how he truly feels in the lead-up to a fistfight.

“I just want to be genuine,” he said. “If I tell you, ‘I'm not scared of s**t and I'm gonna show this kid what's up,’ it doesn't change what's really going on. It's fake bravado and that's just never really been me. I was scared of Tresean Gore before I fought him. I was super scared of Dalcha Lungiambula before I fought him, and it doesn't affect my performance. I think being able to understand that fear isn't necessarily a bad thing, and that it's not going to hinder me is a huge part of why I've been able to be successful; I’m able to separate those emotions and realize that it's just fuel for the fire. That will keep me sharp, that will put me where I want to be to be successful. Just because you're afraid of something doesn't mean that you can't go face it and come out on the other end successful. I feel like sometimes that's the only way to come out super successful is to face those fears and face those demons and then you really feel like you accomplished something at the end of it.”

Cody Brundage Stuns Gore With First-Round KO | UFC Fight Night: Dos Anjos vs Fiziev
Cody Brundage Stuns Gore With First-Round KO | UFC Fight Night: Dos Anjos vs Fiziev

Brundage was feeling that certain way when he was matched up with grappling wizard Rodolfo Vieira before their bout last month was canceled. He laughs, recalling a conversation with his father when the fight was announced

“My dad called me and said, ‘This guy you're fighting, he's a pretty good jiu-jitsu guy, huh?’ ‘Yeah, he's pretty good; he's no slouch.’ (Laughs) So there's a little bit of fear, but I also want to fight guys like that, I want to fight guys with credentials like that because I feel like it's another notch in my belt when I can go and have a good performance and get a win.”

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When the bout got scratched, Brundage still wanted to fight as soon as possible, and he got this weekend’s showdown with Poland’s Oleksiejczuk, who lost a March fight to Brundage’s teammate Jacoby at 205 pounds before debuting at middleweight with a first-round finish of Sam Alvey in August. He’s a formidable opponent, but if Brundage has those butterflies in his stomach about facing him, that’s a good thing.

“I think the nerves keep you sharp and keep you right,” he said. “The fights I've been the least nervous for, I performed the worst, and the ones that I've been the most nervous for, I've done the best.”

View Brundage's Athlete Profile

Maybe he wasn’t that nervous for his UFC debut against Nick Maximov in the fall of 2021, as he lost a three-round decision, but his radar was flashing red in his next two, and even though he faced some adversity, he never stopped pushing for the win, proving that the attribute every fighter says the have was in abundance and beating in his chest.

Cody Brundage poses for a portrait during a UFC photo session on December 14, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC)

Cody Brundage poses for a portrait during a UFC photo session on December 14, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC)

“I always thought that I had it, but until you get put in those situations, you don't really know if you have the dog, heart, whatever you want to call it,” Brundage said. “I always felt that I had it because I feel like I've always been an underdog, just from college wrestling. I'm from South Carolina, wrestling's not a big sport here, it's not super prestigious to wrestle out of South Carolina, and I was able to work really hard. And if you're the underdog, you're gonna take your lumps and you're gonna have heart if you're gonna take your lumps. So I don't know if it gives me an advantage, but going into a fight, I know that if I lose, I truly got beat. I didn't quit on myself, I didn't quit on my coaches and my team and my family. If I lose, someone just got the better of me, and I think there's peace in knowing that sometimes that happens.”

Especially at the UFC level, where everybody can fight. But it’s those intangibles that Brundage has already displayed that give him an edge that he hopes will take him to a world title one day. And yeah, he’s thinking about the future, along with the immediate prospect of Saturday’s fight.

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Call him a middleweight multitasker.

“I'm always looking ahead,” Brundage said. “I’m never looking past anybody, but I'm always like, ‘Well, if I do this, then this can happen,’ and I do it both ways. ‘Well, if I lose, then I'm gonna have to do this.’ I always play out all these scenarios, probably just a byproduct of being bored in the house. (Laughs) So I definitely thought about next year. If I go out there and have a good performance and go 3-0 in the year, I'm not far off from that Top 15.”

A scary thought? Not for Brundage, who is just fine with that forecast.

UFC Fight Night: Cannonier vs Strickland took place live from the UFC APEX in Las Vegas on December 17, 2022. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass