Cody Garbrandt’s title-winning victory over Dominick Cruz at UFC 207 established the Team Alpha Male standout as one of the sport’s breakout stars of 2016.
In addition to solving the Cruz riddle, “No Love” garnered first-round stoppages of Takeya Mizugaki, Thomas Almeida and Augusto Mendes last year. As he sits atop the bantamweight division, one potential opponent, ex-training partner T.J. Dillashaw, stands out above the rest for Garbrandt’s first title defense.
Dillashaw captured the bantamweight title with an upset victory over Renan Barao at UFC 173 in May 2014. He defended the belt twice before relinquishing it to a returning Cruz at UFC Fight Night 81 approximately one year ago. Since then, Dillashaw has earned convincing decision triumphs over John Lineker and Raphael Assuncao to solidify his place as a top contender at 135 pounds. Dillashaw left Team Alpha Male for Elevation Fight Team in Colorado in 2015, a split that was both bitter and public.
Harsh feelings still remain from that move, and Garbrandt claims that Dillashaw was never the true bantamweight champion because he never beat Cruz, who had to vacate the crown due to injury woes.
“He sold out. He’s a sellout. He sold his friends, everybody that got him there. He forgot who got him to where he was at. Saw a little bit of money and f—-ing ran. Ran away,” Garbrandt said on the UFC “Unfiltered” podcast. “But there was me always there, the uncrowned champ. I was the uncrowned champ when he was there.
“He never even won the title because truly, Cruz never lost it. So T.J. really was never a world champion. They use that ‘former world champion,’ Cruz was the world champion, never lost his belt, and I’m the one that went out there and ripped it from him.”
Garbrandt is confident that he would be successful against Dillashaw in a future Octagon meeting, and at least part of that sentiment stems from their history when both men were sharing the gym at Team Alpha Male.
“I don’t mind whooping T.J.’s ass,” Garbrandt said. “He was a cancer to our team and having what he tried to do — destroy it — to make that s—t personal too. I’ll spare everybody 60 bucks to buy the pay-per-view and put out the video of me knocking his ass out when I was 1-0. 1-0. He [was] saying that he made me cry in practice. That motherf—-er never made me cry. I wasn’t the one looking at the ceiling, being on my back looking at the ceiling, knocked out. So he’s just trying to do anything - the guy’s a horrible trash talker. Horrible.”
For now, nothing is set in stone regarding Garbrandt’s next title defense. While he has acknowledged Dillashaw as a worthy foe, the newly-minted champ also expressed a desire to rematch Cruz in the UFC 207 aftermath. Thanks to the current landscape created by Conor McGregor, the possibility of moving up a division to challenge Jose Aldo also looms.
“I’m gonna sit down with Dana [White], Sean [Shelby], and my management team and coaches and see what’s the best fight for me,” Garbrandt said. “I just want to enjoy this, but I’m the champion now and it’s my job and duty and my responsibility to defend it against what fight makes the most sense for me. I don’t know, we’ll see. I believe that T.J. will be a good fight, a good storyline... I’ve just got to weigh in with the UFC and my management team and make the best decision for us both, to make money for everybody.”