They say that the first cut is the deepest. In Cody Garbrandt’s eyes, that’s a good thing.
His grudge with former Team Alpha Male squadmate T.J. Dillashaw came to a head at UFC 217 last November, with Dillashaw coming out on top in a thrilling back-and-forth fight that saw Garbrandt hurt Dillashaw at the end of round one, only to succumb to strikes himself in round two. With the win, Dillashaw claimed Garbrandt’s bantamweight championship and bragging rights in their rivalry.
The two will run it back at UFC 227 on Aug. 4 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, and Garbrandt has had plenty of time to let his first career setback simmer. Appearing on The MMA Hour, he explained how he is now grateful to Dillashaw for beating him, because it reminded him of the brutal knockout he suffered in his final amateur bout.
It was the last time he failed to see his hand raised before being stopped by Dillashaw.
“That’s what made me a world champion,” Garbrandt said. “That’s why I was so — after T.J., hats off to T.J., congrats to you. I’m thankful for that. I’m thankful that I was able to win the world title at a young age, I’m thankful that I was able to lose it at a young age. Because I was already good before that and this is what’s going to make me great. I’ve always learned so much from my losses.
“I lost an amateur fight where it was supposed to be my last amateur fight before going pro and people were like, ‘Oh, you think you’re going to make this? You just got knocked out as an amateur?’ And I went on to win 13 fights straight and become a world champion, the best in the world. So that’s why I’m so motivated now. I just took it all in, walking out of the Octagon on November 4th [at UFC 217]. Like, alright, we’re on this, I knew 100 percent we’d get this shot again. Didn’t care how long it had to take me.”
The rematch was not guaranteed as Dillashaw spent much of the past few months angling for a superfight with UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson. Garbrandt and Dillashaw were tabbed as a replacement main event for UFC 222 in March when an injury knocked featherweight king Max Holloway out of his headlining bout opposite Frankie Edgar, but Dillashaw nixed that idea.
Garbrandt responded by offering part of his purse to coax Dillashaw into accepting the bout, a gesture that turned out to be unnecessary when the matchmakers decided to book their rematch for UFC 227 instead.
As much as Garbrandt appreciates the lessons learned from their first fight, there’s still a lot of lingering animosity, which is one more reason he’s eager to get another crack at Dillashaw.
“I was walking out of the Octagon, I remember saying, ‘I’m going to remember everything about this,’” Garbrandt said. “Everything about this walk back, without my belt. T.J. getting in my face after I was knocked out. I know damn well that dude would never, ever do that if there wasn’t that referee in there. Never, ever.
“He’s a coward. That’s it. He wanted to act like that, he’s not a real champion. Getting in my face like that, flexing on my coaches, I’m going to remember all that and that’s what motivates me in training. So I’m going to get that one back for everybody.”
Garbrandt also addressed his seemingly pleasant exchange with Dillashaw at a recent press conference, a scene that caused some to wonder if their beef was exaggerated or if they had settled it. According to “No Love”, the relationship is far from cordial.
“I’m excited to be able to run it back,” Garbrandt said. “Definitely wipe that smile off of his face. We did the press conference, he looked like he brushed up on his sh*t talking. That’s why I said to him after, ‘Hey man, looks like you worked on your sh*t talking.’ He’s like, ‘It’s business, man.’ He wouldn’t even look at me, he’s such a coward.
“‘It’s a business.’ I understand it’s a business and you’re the champ, you get the pay-per-view sales. Look, I’m focused on coming back for what’s mine and taking that title off of him. So if you want to have this drawn out back-and-forth, Twitter, media wars, it’s cool man, I’m not focused on that, I’m focused on myself. He’s like, ‘It’s business,’ and then he asks me how my kid’s doing. If you’re going to be — I don’t know, I don’t even think he knows who he is.”
Garbrandt recently became a father and also an author. His first book, The Pact — a chronicle of how his close connection with cancer survivor Maddux Maple influenced his career — comes out on Tuesday. The story of Garbrandt and Maple drew national attention after Garbrandt shocked the world at UFC 207, toppling longtime bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz.
Declaring himself healthy for the first time in a while after dealing with back issues for the majority of 2017, Garbrandt believes he can finally get back to being the fighter who soared to the top of the 135-pound rankings at just 25 years old.
“Everything in my life, I couldn’t be more blessed than I am today,” Garbrandt said. “So I’m super thankful for everything, the book that’s coming out, to go out and share our story, about Maddux, where I’m from, things like that. The dream that I held on to through everything, through my life, and now this new chapter.
“It’s August 4th against T.J. Dillashaw and getting my title back. That’s the only sole focus I have right now is getting my title back. That’s what motivates me every day.”