Some rivalries aren’t really rivalries. That isn’t the case with UFC bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt and former titleholder TJ Dillashaw. Just ask “No Love” about his former teammate, the man he will be coaching against on season 25 of The Ultimate Fighter, and you can hear the tone in his voice change.
But as he points out, that’s a good thing.
“It’s gonna be a fun fight,” Garbrandt said. “When I fight with rage and passion, the more I get into it and just love it.”
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For proof, just look at the clinic Garbrandt put on in December, when he defeated the man who beat Dillashaw for the 135-pound crown, Dominick Cruz. But there wasn’t to be much time to relax for the new champ from Uhrichsville, Ohio, as he had to make the trip to Las Vegas to coach a team of former TUF competitors looking for a second shot at UFC glory.
The 25-year-old admits that being on the hit reality show wasn’t on his radar when approached by UFC President Dana White to coach.
“I’m not a coach,” he said. “I’m just focusing on being the best fighter that I can be.”
But he agreed to do it, and while he knows that being just a little over four years into his own pro career made him an unlikely coaching candidate, he made it work by pouring himself into the process.
“As I told them, I don’t know everything,” he said. “I’m still learning, I’m still a student of the game and I always will be. So I brought in the best coaches, the ones that got me to the top and got me to a world title. They (his team) got the best coaching staff, and this staff was able to help them progress and show them different things. These coaches know way more than I know.
“But it was a good opportunity,” Garbrandt continues. “I loved being around the guys and training with them and having them learn under my system. A lot of the guys didn’t have any kind of training schedule, what they should do, what they should eat. We were bringing in doctors, dieticians, all kinds of people to help give them the best chance to keep evolving in their careers.”
And along the way, Garbrandt became more and more invested with a team of fighters he found out he had a lot in common with.
“A lot of them came from a similar background that I did,” he said. “And they had the passion and drive to make this happen, so it was hard not to get invested in these gentlemen and want them to succeed. I really cared about my team and I fought tooth and nail for them. I’m thankful for the opportunity because I grew as a human being and as a fighter.”
Even being around Dillashaw for six weeks didn’t sour him on the whole TUF experience, but Garbrandt didn’t shy away from his future challenger, a man he used to call a teammate when the two were on the Team Alpha Male squad in Sacramento. But after Dillashaw left the team to train in Colorado, everything went south, even though Garbrandt points out that, “I was never friends with TJ.
“TJ tried to play the victim on the show,” he said. “In all actuality, he sold out. I would never do that.”
So how does this get settled? They fight. And as far as Garbrandt is concerned, the sooner the better.
“Now karma’s coming back to him,” he said. “I’m karma, and I’m the meanest karma there is in the world.”