WEST HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — Dominick Cruz told ESPN recently that he's interested in moving up to featherweight to face Jose Aldo or Conor McGregor. That's a trend lately in the UFC, champions wanting big money fights rather than facing top contenders in their respective divisions.
Cody Garbrandt, though, doesn't think Cruz is eyeing one of those names solely for money. Garbrandt, one of the top up-and-coming fighters in the bantamweight division, thinks Cruz is looking for an exit before the two have a chance to meet in the Octagon.
"In his defense, he goes and fights me, he loses everything," Garbrandt said Monday at a media lunch here. "He loses the legacy he built as the bantamweight champion. He's beaten every bantamweight. He's beaten every Alpha Male that he's fought. But I'm a different Alpha Male than he has faced."
Cruz returned from fighting just once in five years due to injury to beat T.J. Dillashaw, Garbrandt's former Team Alpha Male teammate, to win the bantamweight title via split decision back in January. Cruz beat Urijah Faber, patriarch of the gym, by unanimous decision at UFC 199 in June.
Garbrandt believes he should be next up. The Ohio native thinks that if he beats Takeya Mizugaki in impressive fashion at UFC 202 on Saturday in Las Vegas, a title shot should be in the bag. On top of that, Cruz has began changing his tune and saying he wants to fight Garbrandt because of that Team Alpha Male storyline.
"The fans are behind it," Garbrandt said. "He's asking for it. i think that's a fight that needs to happen after Takeya on Saturday."
Garbrandt (9-0) said he has a hit list following the Mizugaki fight: Cruz, Dillashaw and then John Lineker, the man he was supposed to fight earlier this year before Lineker withdrew due to injury. Garbrandt, 25, ended up knocking out Augusto Mendes in that fight in February and then knocked out Thomas Almeida in the main event of UFC Fight Night 88 in May. Both of those finishes came in the first round.
Actually, Garbrandt has three knockouts in four UFC fights. And he believes Cruz will also be his victim. Garbrandt said he watched Cruz beat Faber live in Los Angeles in June and walked feeling good about a fight with Cruz.
"When he throws punches, his chin is exposed," Garbrandt said. "His head is out of the lane and I'l be able to find that very accurately. That's all I needed to see was just the one fight live and it gave me the confidence to know that I will knock him out."
The two had a minor confrontation that night. Garbrandt and Cruz have been peppering each other verbally through the press ever since.
"He's talking about fighting me," Garbrandt said. "Another thing is, he's saying I'm riding Urijah Faber's coattails. But really, Dominick is riding my coattails. I'm the one that's in the media, getting talked about the most. So he wants to jump in there and try to steal my thunder."
Garbrandt just wants to jump in there with Cruz. The Octagon, that is. "No Love" envisions a KO win and Cruz having to take a little vacation from his gig as an analyst with FS1.
"He's gonna have to take some time off after we fight to make sure his jaw is OK," Garbrandt said.