UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz has never been afraid to fire off a little trash talk, but the rivalry between he and upcoming title challenger Cody Garbrandt has reached unusual heights in the lead-up to UFC 207.
In late November, Garbrandt’s girlfriend uploaded an old, mocking screenshot to Instagram of Cruz’s only career loss at the hands of Urijah Faber at WEC 26. The post was seemingly done in retaliation for a similar social media post by Cruz that showcased Garbrandt suffering a brutal knockout loss back in his amateur days. But then things took a curious turn: Cruz appeared in the comments section and warned Garbrandt’s significant other to not “get involved in big boy stuff.”
Garbrandt responded to Cruz in kind, calling the move “b*tch mode.” But when asked on a recent edition of The MMA Hour, Cruz simply laughed off the exchange.
“That whole thing that happened with his girlfriend, first of all, I’ll just squash that immediately,” Cruz said. “I have no problem with his girlfriend or women in general. I love women, I respect women. I’m a mama’s boy, to be perfectly honest. By me going on there, I got tagged by her, apparently — I didn’t even really realize who she was at first until looked into it, and she tagged me in that thing. So all I said, was actually very nicely, I said, ‘don’t get involved in this stuff. Your job is to take care of your boy toy, plain and simple.’
“I don’t know how they are, how they do it, but I don’t want her involved in this stuff. And to me, it’s his job to tell her that stuff, to keep her out of it. But clearly, she probably wears the pants in the relationship because he’s a big softy, as much as he tries to pretend he’s a tough guy. She went out there and tried to defend him, but really, I just don’t want her involved in it. She shouldn’t be involved in it, because I don’t want her to get embarrassed by comments from people on the outside. You don’t get involved in this beef. This is between me and Cody only. This has nothing to do with her, and I was very kind and gentle about letting her know that.”
The exchange was only the latest in the smoldering feud between Cruz and Garbrandt as the two bantamweights prepare for their Dec. 30 title fight at UFC 207. Both men have seemingly poked fun at each other at every turn over the past year, but the girlfriend situation was a different kind of salvo than most fighters are used to, and Garbrandt responded to Cruz’s strategy last week on The MMA Hour.
“Him going onto my girlfriend’s Instagram and doing that, it’s catty to me,” Garbrandt said. “It’s desperation. He’s trying to use every angle he can to get me unfocused, riled up, emotional, which is good. I like to be emotional. I feed off it. I love it. I love banter back-and-forth. But going on my girl’s site and doing that is just… I don’t know, I just lost a lot of respect for him. He can say whatever he wants about me and my family and my upbringing, being fatherless and coming from a broken family, things like that. But you going and doing that (to my girlfriend), that’s just childish. That just shows that he’s very immature and he’s just desperate. He’s a desperate man in there.
“It’s crossing a line,” Garbrandt continued. “Whatever, but I’m not really focused on it. Like I said, my girl can hold her own. I think he needs to be focused on more than going on my girlfriend’s page and talking crap.”
Garbrandt’s response came just days after the two bantamweights engaged in a memorably hostile split-screen interview in front of millions of viewers on FOX. And while Cruz hesitates to say that he is already in Garbrandt’s head, he wouldn’t be surprised if the young Team Alpha Male product comes into their title fight carrying far more emotional baggage than he really should.
“No matter what, if somebody can spike your emotions in any way, shape, or form, they’re doing something to you. And that’s a form of control,” Cruz said. “So, anybody can look at it how they want, but I’m not going to sit here and pretend like I’m controlling his emotions, like I know that. I don’t know what this guy’s feeling. There’s not enough factual basis for me to say, ‘yes, here we go, I’ve got control of him.’
“But I’m going to say that all I can do is be myself and continue to say the things that I’m saying to him, and as you see this take place, I think his reaction alone tells the story. Plain and simple. Just look at his reactions. Look at how he acts. Look at the things he says. And that should paint the picture for people out there.”