While many observers believe T.J. Dillashaw is the next logical challenger for the UFC bantamweight crown, new champ Cody Garbrandt sees things a little bit differently.
While “No Love” called out Dillashaw in the Octagon shortly after his unanimous decision victory over Dominick Cruz in the UFC 207 co-headliner, he seemed to have reconsidered his options by the time the evening’s post-fight press conference arrived.
“I had so much fun in there. Dom’s been arguably the best bantamweight in the world. Let’s run that s—t back,” Garbrandt said. “Let’s give him an immediate rematch so he can go off on the next chapter of his career. I would like to give Dominick Cruz a rematch. It’s ultimately up to the UFC. But I’m the champion now. I’m the baddest dude in the division so I call the shots.”
After Saturday night’s victory at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, nobody is disputing Garbrandt’s place atop the division. The Team Alpha Male product landed with more power and precision throughout the five-round contest, opening a gash on Cruz’s left eyebrow in the third and dropping him twice in the fourth. With that stellar performance, the 23-year-old Garbrandt ended Cruz’s 13-fight winning streak and handed him his first loss since March 24, 2007.
“It played out how I thought it was going to,” Garbrandt said. “Dom is a great champion, he’s arguably one of the greatest bantamweights to ever grace the Octagon and it was a pleasure going out there and testing my mettle. I had a lot of what ifs and I think I solved every one of them.”
Perhaps one of the most surprising developments in the fight was Garbrandt’s ability to connect cleanly on Cruz. The Alliance MMA product had developed a reputation for being nearly unhittable during his reign, and his trademark movement was not even affected by lengthy injury layoffs. Still, Garbrandt expected a little bit more.
“I always was comfortable in there. I was really curious to see his speed and his angles. Everyone believed the hype of him, saying he’s The Matrix, he’s the ghost in there,” Garbrandt said. “He’s great. I’m not taking anything away from him, but I was almost in shock that he was as slow as he was. His movements and angles weren’t there.”
Part of Garbrandt’s success came from his ability to match Cruz’s conditioning and pace for a full 25 minutes.
“I come from Team Alpha Male, and that’s something they pride themselves on is world class cardio. That’s something I’ve always prided myself on since the beginning of wrestling and boxing is the pace that I would set in training is something my opponents wouldn’t be able to keep up with. That was never a question,” he said. “I fight ferocious. I fight like that from first round to fifth round. I was living in the moment. It was great to go out there and fight one of the best in the world and do what I did.”
While Garbrandt and Cruz engaged in a heated feud leading up to their championship clash, both men were able to bury the hatchet enough to display mutual respect in the aftermath. They may never be best friends, but sharing an Octagon created a bond nonetheless.
“If he had went out there and whooped my ass I would have shook his hands and his coaches. He made me a better person and a better fighter. That’s what it is,” Garbrandt said. “I generally don’t like the guy. He said a lot of ill words, and I said I was going to make him eat every single thing. It was a great fight. I think we put on a great fight, entertained the crowd and went out there and delivered a performance, both of us.
“I have a lot of respect for him. I always did…He was a great champion, he wouldn’t be here this long if he wasn’t.”