There's no love lost between UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz and Team Alpha Male, especially after Cruz's successful title defense against Urijah Faber at UFC 199. Faber, the founder and figurehead of the team, has a long-standing rivalry with Cruz, which is exacerbated by Cruz's victories over other current and former members of the team like Joseph Benavidez or T.J. Dillashaw.
Cody Garbrandt, a top UFC bantamweight contender fresh off of a win in May over Thomas Almeida, is part of Team Alpha Male and appears to have been grandfathered into the rivalry with Cruz.
On a recent episode of Stud Radio - the official podcast of Team Alpha Male - Garbrandt told the story of a backstage semi-altercation with Cruz that took place after the champion's UFC 199 win. "Yeah, [he, Cruz, popped out of the tent] with this dumbass look on his face," Garbrandt said. "I was sitting there, walked out of Faber's tent, talked to him, kind of taking it all in. He [Cruz] popped out of his tent and kind of made eye contact with me, made this face like, 'Yeah, motherfuc*er, what?'
"I was sitting there, and he [Cruz] wouldn't turn away, so I was like 'Alright, what's up? It's cool. Keep my belt polished up for me.' And he grabbed his belt off his dude and put it over his shoulder like, 'You better get in line.'
Garbrandt, for his part, replied, 'There ain't no line right now. I'll run up on you and smack you right in your face.'"
Ultimately, no fists were thrown, but when asked for his version of events on Monday's The MMA Hour, Cruz declined to go into details. As he sees it, the team are relentless self promoters. All of their actions, Cruz argues, should be viewed through that lense. More importantly, their leader in Faber encourages it because Cruz claims Faber has a financial interest in doing so.
"Those guys, first of all, it's an Alpha Male podcast, so they're talking about themselves. They're always promoting themselves," Cruz argues. "That's what it's for. He just did the same thing that Faber after I fought T.J. Dillashaw. He's taking his manager's approach, which Faber is his manager/training partner. He collects money off promoting Cody Garbrandt. He collects off promoting Paige VanZant. He collects money off promoting Benavidez when he was with him, T.J. Dillashaw, Chad Mendes and half those guys left because they were tired of riding the coattails of Faber.
"Cody hasn't gotten tired of that yet. He's using the coattails of Faber and Faber's promoting him because he collects percentage off promoting him. And they're promoting this guy on their podcast because it benefits Team Alpha Fail to promote him on their podcast. It's all just politics because they want their promotion and Faber wants that money by pushing his own teammates up there."
The key for the champion, however, isn't to get tied up into one member of the team over the other. He sees them more as a whole rather any one challenge. For Cruz, it's not about responding to or having anything to say about Garbrandt. He's part of the larger issue, one Cruz says he's been dealing with and will continue to do so.
The difference, however, is that Cruz doesn't want to face them unless the grounds are meritorious. Cruz believes they're doing more to promote themselves than legitimately earn a spot to deserve that which they are clamoring for.
"I've been facing these guys since the beginning of my career. I said it a long time ago on one of my interviews that I chop one head off and another one just pops right back up. Those guys are never going to stop hating me. They're never going to stop wanting to beat me. Faber's going to keep promoting these guys because he collects a percentage off promoting these guys," Cruz recalls.
"To me, it was just normal, Team Alpha Fail business. Them talking, trying to skip positions in the line. The way I see it is, just get in line man. Beat somebody that's ranked in the top 3. That's how I feel about those guys, any of those guys. Don't try to talk your way to the front of the line."