Cody Garbrandt got back to the business of winning on Saturday and he now sees a wide open bantamweight field ahead of him.
With a buzzer-beating one-punch KO of Raphael Assuncao in the UFC 250 co-main event at the UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Garbrandt snapped a three-fight skid in his return to action following a 15-month break from competition. The former UFC champion was asked about a variety of possible follow-up fights at the evening’s post-fight press conference and he responded by first addressing Petr Yan.
Yan is expected to fight Jose Aldo for a vacant bantamweight title at an upcoming event on “Fight Island,” but Garbrandt sees himself as being worthy of that championship opportunity.
“I heard that they’re going to ‘Fight Island’ and there’s only one name that I want to fight on ‘Fight Island,’ that’s Petr Yan,” Garbrandt said. “So Dana, I’m healthy, I’m ready, I want this strap back, I want this world championship back. It’s vacant for a reason and that’s my destiny to get it back. So I’ll go through whoever they need me to go through, but it’s inevitable that it’s mine.”
Should Garbrandt’s request for a title shot not be granted, he sounded comfortable with other scenarios that would keep him on the contenders’ path. He expressed interest in a bantamweight tournament, suggesting that the fighters stay on “Fight Island” for “a few months” to sort things out.
He also took a moment to wax poetic when naming who he sees as his biggest challenge in the division.
“It’s the old Cody,” Garbrandt said. “It’s me vs. me, always. If the old Cody comes back, f**k, he’s a scary dude. Cody 2.0 is here. I’ve just got to keep bettering myself inside my profession, outside my profession, doing the right things in life, making the right decisions and everything else falls into place. I don’t fear any man, I fear myself.”
Two other names that were brought up were Garbrandt’s old rival T.J. Dillashaw and rising star Sean O’Malley. Garbrandt and Dillashaw have faced off in a pair of title fights, with Dillashaw twice knocking Garbrandt out, while O’Malley entered Garbrandt’s orbit on Saturday evening after both fighters recorded highlight-reel KOs. Following Garbrandt’s win, O’Malley tweeted, “Decent.”
Currently, Dillashaw is serving a two-year USADA suspension after testing positive for EPO in January 2019. Garbrandt still wants to avenge his two losses to Dillashaw sometime in the future.
“We’re talking about T.J. who’s still suspended,” Garbrandt said. “He’s not even in there, but that’s a fight I’d like to get back. We all know what he was on, we all knew what he was doing, it took so many times for him to skate by USADA, unfortunately. He’s serving his sentence, he’s gonna always have to live with that the rest of his life, he has a child that has eyes on him that knows that his dad was a cheater. The whole world looked up to him, a lot of young kids. It’s sad.
“I kind of feel bad for the guy, he has no confidence, that he has to use those kinds of aids to be a fighter. But we’ll see. I’m gonna be at the world championship, I’m gonna be at the top, so if he works his way back up there, open doors, let’s get it.”
Of O’Malley, Garbrandt was specifically asked whether he saw any similarities between his own rapid rise to the top and O’Malley’s current hot streak. “No Love” dismissed the comparison.
“No parallels,” Garbrandt said. “I was 25 years old, a world champion. He’s 25. I was an 11-0 world champion. He has not fought anybody in the top-15. How many people did I fight in the top-15? Under two years in the UFC, I became a world champion. That’s a fast track. I was fighting the best, am the best, will be the best. No comparison.
“I will say I like his style. I like his little flashy hair. It’s cool for the division. So keep doing his thing, keep getting those wins, we’ll see you at the top, buddy.”
Overall, UFC 250 was a showcase for the bantamweight division, with Garbrandt, O’Malley, Aljamain Sterling, and Cody Stamann all picking up important wins. Sterling might be just ahead of Garbrandt in the rankings after scoring a submission victory against Cory Sandhagen, but the depth of the division is one reason why Garbrandt is looking forward to getting back into the octagon as soon as possible.
“Just watching the bantamweights get so much hype—not even hype, but recognition on the night, I was just excited,” Garbrandt said. “There’s gonna be so many potential bouts that I can have. So many potential knockout performance bonuses that I’m gonna get in my bank from all these guys. They come out and show up, I’m excited for the bantamweight division. It’s the best division in the UFC.
“We have some killers. It’s a shark tank. You’ve got Dominick Cruz, you’ve got Urijah Faber still doing what he wants to do, you have so many guys. It’s a shark tank division. They’re talented, they’re fast, they’re strong, and I’m excited to get back to the top and get my title back. Come one, come all.”