LOS ANGELES — One of Dominick Cruz’s go-to lines of trash talk leading up to his UFC 207 fight with Cody Garbrandt has been about head injuries.
When the two of them went head-to-head verbally during the UFC on FOX 22 broadcast Saturday night in Sacramento, Cruz asked Garbrandt how many concussions he’s had. It’s a direct reference to a video that has gone around online of Garbrandt getting knocked out as an amateur fighter.
Garbrandt said Monday during a UFC 207 media lunch in Century City that Cruz’s barbs about concussions don’t bother him. He believes that Cruz is actually projecting, that Cruz is the one worried about a head injury.
“It comes from also his insecurities,” Garbrandt said. “You ever see his interview about him getting knocked out in practice? He talks about that. That’s his fear, he’s desperate. It’s something that he thinks about. So he’s trying to pass that light on to me, the focus on me. ‘Oh, you’ve been knocked out. There’s video of it.’ But that’s what he fears.
“He fears me knocking him out and he’s damn right. That’s what I’m gonna do in there on Dec. 30 is knock him out. He’s trying to take that off of his mind and pass it to me.”
Cruz will defend the UFC bantamweight title against Garbrandt at UFC 207 on Dec. 30 in Las Vegas. The two have been embroiled in a war of words before Garbrandt was even booked to fight Cruz on the UFC’s year-end card at T-Mobile Arena.
The concussion talk stands out, though. It’s not your standard fare in verbal warfare, especially since head injuries and CTE are no joke in the world of combat sports. But Garbrandt said it doesn’t even make him raise his eyebrows and he’s actually thankful for that knockout loss in his amateur days.
“It taught me a lot about myself,” Garbrandt said. “And I wouldn’t be a world champion without that fight. That fight right there is making me the world champion.”
Garbrandt (10-0) likes the trash talk, he said. He welcomes Cruz going after him. What “No Love” is wondering is why Cruz was on FOX analyzing fights over the weekend rather than in the gym. Garbrandt thought it odd that the champion was taking a break from training for his second job.
“I think he’s losing focus,” Garbrandt said. “He’s working two weeks before the fight. He’s breaking down all these fights. You got me in front of you. You should be solely focused on me.”
Garbrandt, 25, takes it as a sign that Cruz has one foot out of the Octagon door.
“I believe he’s getting ready for the next chapter in his life,” Garbrandt said. “He took the FOX commentating job. He’s a great broadcaster — he does amazing at that. But another thing, too, he said he’s happy without having the belt. He didn’t need that to be happy. So for me, he’s kind of relinquishing that. He’s kind of going to the next chapter, getting ready for that.”
The Team Alpha Male product said he’s already at 146 pounds, just 11 off championship weight. It’s an easy weight cut for Garbrandt, so much so that he ate a regular lunch Monday, including a few bites of chocolate cake.
Garbrandt dropped some f-bombs on Cruz, causing FOX to censor parts of the live on-air face-off between the two men. But if Cruz has gotten to Garbrandt, if he’s in the challenger’s head, it hasn’t come across that way so far. The concussion talk didn’t seem to register much, if you believe “No Love.”
“I see through him,” Garbrandt said. “It’s fine that he wants to keep bringing that on me. [Thomas] Almeida and his camp did the same thing. He found out the hard way and Dominick Cruz is gonna find out the same way Dec. 30.”