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Cody Garbrandt wants Bryan Caraway at UFC 203: 'I'm on a different level'

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Cody Garbrandt notched the biggest victory of his young career Sunday evening at UFC Fight Night 88, knocking out the previously undefeated Thomas Almeida in Round 1.

Now, "No Love" turns his attention to his next opponent, and he already has a name and a date in mind.

"Going into this fight with Thomas Almeida, obviously Aljamain Sterling and Bryan Caraway [were] matched up [on the card] too, and they talked about the winners facing each other," Garbrandt told Ariel Helwani on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour. "So, I have no doubt in my mind that if Aljamain would’ve won, I’d be fighting Aljamain. Bryan won, so now why can’t I fight Bryan? Why shouldn’t I be fighting Bryan for the next in line for a title shot or that ranking up there? I think I just got ranked fifth, he’s fourth, so let’s fight Sept. 10 [at UFC 203]."

Caraway said during the post-fight press conference that Garbrandt doesn't deserve to leap-frog him in the division. Garbrandt shared his feelings about that statement, saying the nature of their wins Sunday were not equal.

"I’ve seen him do some bantering in the media about how he said I don’t deserve to be ahead of him, but look: My win was dominant. My win was no questions," Garbrandt said. "You had a close fight with Aljamain. I went through there and destroyed my adversary in under three minutes, who was looked at as untouchable, unbeatable, so I deserve not only to have the title shot in front of him, but he also says that he has the strongest jaw.

"He has a good chin, that’s what he credits himself on. He has the [best] chin in the division, in the UFC. I have the heaviest hands in my division. I’m the hardest puncher, the fastest fighter in my division. So I said, ‘Why don’t we put those to the test?’ No disrespect, let’s fight Sept. 10 in Cleveland at the Q [The Quicken Loans Arena] for that number-one contender spot, Bryan Caraway."

While many fighters have called out Caraway, questioning his fighting abilities in the process, Garbrandt says this is all business. He respects Caraway. He also knows that beating him puts him where he wants to be in his career.

"I have respect for Bryan Caraway," Garbrandt said. "Of course, he went out there and proved he was a fighter [at UFC Fight Night 88]. He went out there and fought Aljamain. Aljamain was beating him the first round and he came back and won, but I’m on a different level. I’m on a different level. It’s my time. Whoever they put in front of me, I’m going to knock out, so it doesn’t matter. But I think Caraway, Caraway’s right there."

Should that fight not materialize, however, Garbrandt said he'll take on all comers – as long as the venue remains the same.

"Whoever they give me to dance with on that night, they better have their boots tied tight, because I’m going to knock them out of them," Garbrandt said. "It doesn’t matter. I’m ready to go. I’m more motivated than ever, and I get to fight in my home state. That’s even more motivation just to go out there and perform and to give the performance to the fans that have been watching me since I was a kid with a dream."

For Garbrandt, a potential matchup with Caraway would mark his second-straight fight against top-10 competition. The Ohioan was unranked going into his fight with Almeida, but after starching his Brazilian foe, he feels he's finally beginning to get the respect he deserves.

"I definitely see that [I’ve gotten more respect]," Garbrandt said. "Just walking Vegas, the fans, even the Brazilian fans that were messaging me all week that I’m going to die, they really converted, and they’re like, ‘Hey, we’re just fans.’ I really like people who stick with their fellow countrymen. He’s a Brazilian, and the Brazilians came hard. I definitely got the respect that I deserve."