There are several avenues available if a fighter wants to get to the top of his division in the UFC and Cody Garbrandt has committed himself to traveling in one lane and one lane only.
“No Love” isn’t interested in taking the long way around to get where he aims to land and there are no plans to downshift any time soon.
“I want fights that are going to test me and force out the best in what I have to offer,” Garbrandt said. “With this only being my third fight in the UFC, I’m sure I could have gotten a few easier fights to work my way up but that’s not what I’m about. I don’t have that gear and I actually despise people who take the easy route. I’ve never been that way.
“Back in my wrestling days I’d bump up a few weight classes to wrestle the toughest kids because why not? Most kids would’ve taken the forfeit or win for their record but I wanted to find out what I was made of. I’m still the same way today.”
After impressive showings earned Garbrandt victories in his first two bouts inside the Octagon, it would have been easy for the highly touted bantamweight to face more established talent at a steady progression. Instead, the Ohio native set his sights on two-divisional threat John Lineker - who is widely acknowledged as one of the most dangerous power punchers currently dwelling at 135 pounds.
Lineker’s talents have made him a notable player in the bantamweight title picture, which is precisely the type of situation the 24-year-old Ohio native is eager to test himself in.
“I had a lot of hype coming in and I’m glad I’ve had the type of performances that have made people believe the hype,” Garbrandt said. “I’m moving in the right direction and getting the big fights against the tough guys that I want. I’m facing the type of competition that will motivate me and get me out to do the roadwork I don’t want to do. These are the fights I dreamed of as a kid. These are the fights that are going to move me up the divisional ladder and get me to the UFC Hall of Fame when it’s all said and done.”
Nevertheless, MMA is a chaotic game and a sudden illness forced the heavy-handed Brazilian, Lineker, out of their scheduled tilt this Sunday night in Pittsburgh. While news of Lineker’s withdrawal was undoubtedly upsetting, Garbrandt is so game that he only cared about being able to fight on the scheduled date.
For him, the opponent really didn’t matter, but he was relieved to find out MMA Lab representative Augusto Mendes stepped up and took the challenge.
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“Obviously, the situation sucks, but I’m a fighter and this is nothing new to me and I’m still fighting in Pittsburgh and that means a lot to me. As soon as I found out about the card, I called (UFC matchmaker) Sean Shelby to get on it,” Garbrandt said. “I didn’t care about having to wait a bit because I see this fight as an appreciation fight for all of my fans who have been riding with me since day one. The people who have been with me since my first boxing match or my first wrestling match are all stoked because they are going to be able to see me fight in the UFC so close to home.
“I’m going to whoop this dude so bad - do whatever I have to do to get the win - and show my fans how grateful I am for their support.”
In addition to his own career track, Garbrandt has also been forced to deal with drama under the roof of the gym he calls home in Sacramento. Team Alpha Male hit the MMA media headlines for a healthy stretch late last year when it became public that then-bantamweight champion and Urijah Faber protégé TJ Dillashaw was breaking away from the squad that brought him to prominence in order to set up shop with a new team in Denver. The back-and-forth between Faber and Dillashaw carried out for months, which put added stress on the rest of the TAM cast amid rumors that one of the staple gyms in all of MMA was crumbling. But Garbrandt insists his squad is stronger than ever.
“It really hasn’t been a distraction because I haven’t allowed it to be,” Garbrandt said. “I wasn’t involved in it then and I’m not now. I’m not mad at TJ [Dillashaw] or hate him or anything, but I do think it was kind of f-d up what he did. I mean one week we are having a conversation with him after the dust up on The Ultimate Fighter and he’s all talking about how he’s with Team Alpha Male and this and that. A week later he comes back and says he’s leaving.
“We’ve all cross trained somewhere else during our time at TAM but we’ve always been a team. What TJ did was something completely different and it only would have continued to cause problems. We have a positive crew there and I could not care less that he’s gone. I’m gunning for that title, no doubt about it.”