Cody Garbrandt’s flyweight debut was originally supposed to take place last November, in a championship clash against Deiveson Figueiredo, but a nasty battle with COVID-19 scuttled those plans.
When he was finally ready to return to action, he did so at bantamweight, against Rob Font, in a five-round main event that did not go his way and left him sitting with a 1-4 record in five fights since moving to 11-0 and claiming the bantamweight title with a masterful performance against Dominick Cruz at UFC 207.
Now, more than a year after initially being slated to test himself in the 125-pound weight class and searching to rediscover the mojo that made him one of the most dynamic and promising talents on the UFC roster, the 30-year-old makes the move to flyweight, squaring off with City Kickboxing standout Kai Kara-France on the main card of Saturday night’s UFC 269 pay-per-view event at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
“I feel like timing is everything,” Garbrandt told the UFC digital team on Wednesday. “Over a year ago, I was slated to be the flyweight title challenger, but COVID got me pretty bad. I recovered from that, had the Rob Font fight, but when I say I’m going to do something, I do it.”
Top Finishes: Cody Garbrandt
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Top Finishes: Cody Garbrandt
This shift in weight classes isn’t something Garbrandt has done haphazardly, enlisting the help of Dr. Matteo Capodaglio, who has worked with middleweight title challenger Marvin Vettori in the past, to handle his nutrition and aid him in tapering down his weight while still prioritizing the other essential elements that make up a productive training camp.
A couple of days before stepping on the scale with a target weight slightly lower than he’s used to, “No Love” has nothing but love for Capodaglio, the work they’ve done together, and this move to flyweight.
“I truly believe in the timing (of it all) and it allowed me the time to seek professional help,” began Garbrandt, explaining why now was the right time to pull the trigger on dropping a division. “I’ve got Dr. Matteo handling my nutrition, and we’ve been working for seven months now on lowering (my weight); it hasn’t just been in fight camp.
“I knew I needed to make a change in regard to recharging, eating in camp, my energy, and how that all translates, and Dr. Matteo has been amazing for me to be do this descent down to flyweight.
“I’ve never felt better,” he added. “I feel even better now than I did at bantamweight.”
He’s also admittedly a little scared.
Speaking with his long-time teammate, training partner, and coach Chris Holdsworth on their Rollin’ with the Homies video podcast, Garbrandt acknowledged there are a number of key questions that will remain unanswered until he steps on the scale on Friday and into the Octagon on Saturday night, and that scares him, but in a good way.
“There’s always ‘What Ifs?’” he said, when asked about the comments on Wednesday afternoon. “Just like when I was going to fight Dominick Cruz — there were so many questions that were unanswered: Can he go five rounds? Can his cardio hold up?
“There are all these things, and it’s scary, but it’s also motivating,” continued Garbrandt, who carries a 12-4 record into his clash with Kara-France this weekend in Las Vegas. “It inspires me to get up and put the extra work in. Maybe I didn’t feel like I needed to at ’35 because the weight wasn’t an issue, but first and foremost, I’ve got to make the weight, so it made me do extra cardio, not have the sushi, not have the pizza, not have my kid’s snacks.
“There are more things that you have to sacrifice in order to be rewarded.”
Through the first 11 fights of his professional career, Garbrandt never left the cage without reaping the rewards of his efforts.
He earned five straight stoppage wins in a shade under two years to earn a chance to compete inside the Octagon, and then posted three straight victories after arriving in the UFC to set up a main event showdown between unbeaten bantamweight against Thomas Almeida in the spring of 2016.
Less than three minutes into the fight, Garbrandt sat atop the Octagon fence celebrating, having knocked out the streaking Brazilian and established himself as a legitimate contender in the 135-pound weight class. After making quick work of veteran Takeya Mizugaki at UFC 202, he took aim at Cruz, calling for a fight with the champion and long-time adversary of the Team Alpha Male squad.
On December 30, 2016, in the same arena where he’ll compete on Saturday, Garbrandt orchestrated a beautiful symphony inside the Octagon, out-moving, out-striking, and completely out-foxing the long-time divisional standard-bearer en route to a clean sweep of the scorecards and a championship victory.
But it’s been hard times ever since for the Ohio native, who will look to get back to the things that carried him to the top of the bantamweight division when he makes his flyweight debut on Saturday night.
“(It’s about) just letting the fight unravel,” began Garbrandt when asked how he can balance wanting to make a statement in his first appearance in a new division with simply needing to get things moving in the right direction again. “(It’s about) trusting your instincts, trusting how well you prepared for the fight; controlling the crowd, controlling yourself.
“The main thing is controlling what you do inside the Octagon. No matter what your adversary is throwing at you, how well prepared he is, control what you can control and believe in your preparation.”
And Garbrandt believes in his preparation.
After starting his camp in Toms River, New Jersey with coach Mark Henry and the “Iron Army,” he wrapped things up back home in Sacramento with the crew at Alpha Male, and now he’s ready to put everything they’ve work on together at UFC 269.
“For me to be at my best, it’s just enjoying myself, having fun, and dancing my dance,” said Garbrandt, who literally danced after evading one of Cruz’s attacks in their meeting at UFC 207. “When I’m myself in there, it’s hard for anyone to compete with that, in either division — bantamweight or flyweight.
“I’m here at fight week without any injuries after a 10-week, 12-week camp. I started out in New Jersey, finished it in Sacramento, with killers on both coasts, so you know you’re getting hard training.
“Now it’s just time to do it.”