LOS ANGELES -- Just about any fighter who makes it to a championship level will tell you it wasn’t the money that got them into the game in the first place, but rather the drive to become the best in the world at what they do.
Such was the case for former UFC bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt, who will have the opportunity to regain the championship he lost to T.J. Dillashaw when the duo square off in their rematch Saturday night in the main event of UFC 227 at Staples Center.
“My money thing, I never wanted to have my motivation to be money, that’s not why I got into this sport, I got into it to be a world champion,” Garbrandt told reporters at a media event Monday.
But just like real fighters get into it for the love, there’s also no denying that the closer you get to the top of the mountain, the more money becomes a factor in your decision-making.
And for Garbrandt, that meant the Benjamins were a prime reason why he couldn’t pull out of his UFC 217 bout with Dillashaw, in which he was knocked out in the second round.
Nagging back issues had already forced one postponement of his fight with Dillashaw, and with a child on the way and a mortgage to make, the Team Alpha Male competitor simply couldn’t say no to the sort of payday a bout at New York’s Madison Square Garden headlined by megastar Georges St-Pierre was going to bring.
“What can I do? I pulled out of the fight [for their first date in July]. I had a wife that was pregnant. I fought Dominick Cruz for $200,000 a year before that. I’m trying to buy a house, I’m trying to get insurance, all the things you’re thinking you made it, you’re a world champion and you’ve got all this f*cking money but we’re not, man. I understand you have to build your way up to it and it’s good, but, I couldn’t pull out.”
Garbrandt doesn’t want to take credit away from Dillashaw for getting the job done with a second-round knockout at UFC 217, but there’s little disputing Garbrandt went into the bout at something less than full health. With his back issues lingering, Garbrandt detailed what he had to go through just to make it out to New York for fight week.
“Two weeks before the fight, I had to go to Vegas and get eight epidurals shot in my back so I could heal up and go to the fight week in New York,” Garbrandt said. “I don’t regret anything. I’m blessed, being able to be here with now. And I’m healthy and that’s the thing, I’m so excited to be here and speak to you guys, I’m excited to be getting into the Octagon.”
Still, like other fighters who have noticed the UFC sold for north of $4 billion just two years ago, Garbrandt doesn’t believe that the need of a paycheck should have to force him to make such decisions on whether to stay in a fight at this level of the game.
“You have to live life and now I have to take care of my family,” Garbrandt said. “That’s why you see all these fighters who want these money fights. You can’t blame them. They go in there and literally take years off our life. For what, $40,000? $50,000, some of these fighters are coming in 10 and 10 so, what, if they get their ass beat and make what, $10,000? It’s crazy, man. You’ve got NHL players and MLB players making millions and millions and millions and we’re the fastest growing sport in the world. Something’s gotta change.”
While not giving a number, Garbrandt did indicate he was well-paid for his UFC 217 experience, even though the bout didn’t go his way.
“I had a good fight, the pay-per-view did good at Madison Square [Garden], so I’m happy. I’ve some investments, I’ve got good people in my life managing my money. All I’ve got to do is win at the end of the day and the checks keep coming in,” Garbrandt said.