UFC 207 was punctuated with the arrival of 25-year old Cody Garbrandt, who schooled Dominick Cruz for five rounds in the co-main event to win the bantamweight title. Though it was the first loss that Cruz has suffered in nearly 10 years, the fight was so one-sided that a rematch wasn’t a given. Particularly since former champion T.J. Dillashaw made a statement against John Lineker just a fight prior on the main card, declaring himself ready for the next title shot.
So who will be Garbrandt’s first title defense? Will it be the division’s ruler for so long, Cruz, or his former Team Alpha Male teammate Dillashaw?
Maybe neither. Garbrandt is thinking bigger. As in, bigger money, bigger rewards, bigger weight classes.
“I need to sit down with Dana [White] and Sean [Shelby], and find out the biggest money fight for me,” Garbrandt said during an appearance on The MMA Hour on Monday. “I know I could go up and fight with Jose Aldo. He has wins over my teammates, he’s a legend, and I’d like to test his chin. I know I hit hard, and I’m just getting started. And I could also have the biggest fight with Conor [McGregor]. I could easily go up. My homie Nate Diaz choked him out, and I can’t believe he’s pound-for-pound No. 2 on the list, with, you know he got choked out.”
Garbrandt is 11-0 in his professional MMA career, which began just four years ago on the regional circuit in Pennsylvania. He is 6-0 in the UFC since debuting at UFC 182 two years ago against Marcus Brimage, with four of those wins coming via KO or TKO.
He has his moments against Cruz, flooring him on multiple occasions with his heavy right hand. He also showcased speed, footwork and head movement that left many stunned, given that Cruz had a trademark on those assets coming in.
The win was a significant moment for a burgeoning star in the fight game, who is already thinking about bigger and better things.
“There’s a lot of fights for me in the division, in the UFC division,” he said. “I am young enough to go up, and I’ll fight anybody. But to be honest, I truly believe that I’m ready to fight and I believe that I go out there and put on a performance. And I’m a draw. I want the biggest money fight for me right now. I think that I saw Jose Aldo say that he’d like to fight me, I’d like to test his chin. Like I said, he’s got wins over my teammates and I want to get every one of those back.
“But there’s so many fights for me. I’ve got to sit down with my management team, with Sean and Dana, and see what fights the best for me, and the biggest money fight. We’re all in this to get us all rich, to get us all paid. And that’s what I want to do.”
Garbrandt did say that he would welcome a run-back of his fight with Cruz, whom he acknowledged was deserving given his tenure at the top of the division. Still, the Ohio native said that he would put the names Aldo and McGregor over the names Cruz and Dillashaw at the moment.
“Yeah,” he said. “Whatever benefits me. I’m the champ. I’m the champ. I just went out there and beat one of the best pound-for-pounds, who’s been on the pound-for-pound [list] for however long now. I want the biggest draw. I think Jose Aldo…I want the biggest challenge. I’m in this sport to challenge myself. I just beat Dominick handily, and I’m ready for a bigger challenge. I think Jose Aldo is tough, I respect him, but I want to test his chin. I know I hit like a Mack Truck. Like I said, I’m just getting started, just getting comfortable.
“And you know, Conor, too. He knows that I’d go up to 150 and catchweight with him. Jose Aldo I’ll go up to 45. But yeah. I’m excited for the potential match-ups for me. I feel like I’m one of the biggest draws. I’m the biggest draw for Conor in the division, you know what I mean? I’m a rising star. Jose Aldo needs a fight. I think that he went out there and said that he’d like to fight me too.”
McGregor and Garbrandt had an infamous encounter during The Ultimate Fighter 22 when McGregor was coaching opposite Urijah Faber. After McGregor provoked Faber by pointing out that teammate T.J. Dillashaw was a “snake in the grass,” Garbrandt — a member of Faber’s staff — answered McGregor’s taunt to do something about it by shoving McGregor and nearly igniting a brawl.
Asked when he thought he might like to return, Garbrandt said he wanted to take a little time off and savor the moment, but that a mid-2017 title defense sounded about right.
“I think so, say June maybe, before summer,” he said. “Yeah, I think that would be a great time to come back and give somebody an ass-whooping. But yeah, me and Conor had the beef on The Ultimate Fighter. I mean, have nothing against the guy as far as a fighter. It’s a business to me. But I’ll tell you what, somebody puts their hands on me and I didn’t do shit about it, I’d be wanting to get them back each time. That’s for sure.”