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Cody Garbrandt believes he’s still the better fighter, wants another crack at T.J. Dillashaw

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Cody Garbrandt looks to pounce on a fallen T.J. Dillashaw at UFC 217
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Cody Garbrandt is willing to acknowledge that T.J. Dillashaw was the better man at UFC 217, but not the better fighter overall.

At Saturday’s post-fight press conference following his bantamweight championship loss to Dillashaw in the co-main event at Madison Square Garden in New York, N.Y., Garbrandt gave credit to Dillashaw for beating him while also maintaining that he has the superior skills. The bout ended in the second round when Dillashaw dropped Garbrandt with a stiff right hand before finishing him with strikes on the ground.

Garbrandt is already looking forward to a second meeting with his former Alpha Male teammate that he expects to go much differently.

“I am the better fighter out there and he was able to capitalize on a low left hand and a right hook,” Garbrandt said. “Hats off to T.J. He battled back from losing his title and he was a hungry man, but I’m still the better fighter in there and I’ll show that in the rematch.”

For five minutes at least, Garbrandt looked like he would leave the cage with the gold that he came in with. It was “No Love” who drew first blood, rocking Dillashaw near the end of the first round and threatening to finish him before time expired. In Round 2, Garbrandt says he was too hesitant and that Dillashaw capitalized on a “technical error” by Garbrandt to land the telling blow.

“He caught me tonight,” Garbandt said. “He caught me with a punch. I truly am the better fighter. It was me vs. me in there, I’m battling with myself. To throw more punches, to counter, to see all these openings, and I just didn’t pull the trigger. It’s always me vs. me. The only person that beat me is me and I didn’t throw my hands, I didn’t do what I was supposed to do and know how to do in there.”

Asked if any lingering back issues may have hindered him on fight night, Garbrandt declined to blame injuries, only saying that it was a “long road” back after undergoing surgery earlier this year and that he was currently “thankful” and “healthy.”

The loss to Dillashaw is the first of Garbrandt’s career after winning his first 11 bouts as a professional, including a convincing unanimous decision win over then-champion Dominick Cruz last December that made Garbrandt an overnight sensation. Though he fell short in his first title defense, he is not discouraged by the outcome.

“This is going to be a learning experience for me,” Garbrandt said. “You have to have a short memory in this game, win or lose, and that’s it. I’m excited to get back on that hard work, I’m never fearful of losing.

“I go out there and live or die by the sword and I’m willing to put the work in that needs to be to obtain the goal that I set out to do. I’m not going to die with dreams, I’m going to die with memories. This isn’t going to stop me from chasing a dream that really saved my life since as a young child what I wanted to be was a world champion and I’ve been here before. I’ve lost a lot in my life and I feel like if this is the worst thing that happens in my life then I live a really good life, I have so many blessings coming to me.”

Should Garbrandt fight Dillashaw again, it remains to be seen if they will continue to indulge in the drama between them that stems from Dillashaw formerly training with Garbrandt and company at Team Alpha Male. Garbrandt and associates allege that Dillashaw injured teammate Chris Holdsworth, left the team under controversial circumstances, and is a PED user.

Garbrandt still has plenty of ill will for Dillashaw, but he doesn’t feel like it affected their fight nor would it affect a rematch.

“I don’t see how this wasn’t professional. I think I was being professional given the facts behind it,” Garbrandt said. “Still, I feel like he’s a piece of s**t teammate, I stand beside my facts. He lies still and it doesn’t matter, yeah, he won, good for him. I’ll be back and I’m going to come with vengeance and that belt’s gonna be mine.”