The former bantamweight champion was one of more than 23.4 million Americans who contracted COVID-19 over the past year, and the deadly disease definitely took a toll on him. Being forced out of a flyweight title shot was ultimately the least of his concerns, as he battled symptoms for several months. The issue was exacerbated by an additional injury after he suffered a torn vein in his arm caused by blood clots. He was forced to go on blood thinners while still recovering.
After months of recovery, the Ohio native finally started feeling like himself again before the New Year. Now that he’s back in training, Garbrandt is anxious to fight again.
“Finally, it’s been about a month and a half that I’ve felt I would say 100 percent, no symptoms,” Garbrandt told MMA Fighting. “Feeling great that the stress that I’m putting on my body doing MMA and all the training that I’ve been doing, my body is retaining it really well, holding really well to the stress that I’ve been putting on it. I’m excited.”
Now that he’s healthy again, Garbrandt doesn’t want to waste any more time waiting, which is why he’s not sitting on the sidelines waiting for his opportunity to compete for the 125-pound title.
Because current champion Deiveson Figueiredo went to a draw with his last opponent Brandon Moreno, the flyweights are expected to meet again in a rematch later this year. Thanks to that delay, Garbrandt is now turning his attention back to the bantamweight division, where he has his sights set on a legend for his next opponent.
“I’m targeting a fight with Jose Aldo in April – that’s what I’m shooting for,” Garbrandt revealed. “I had the title fight at 125, I’m the next in line, but obviously they have to do the rematch. I’m not going to sit and wait eight months. It’s not something I want to do. So I feel like staying at 135 and fighting Jose Aldo will be a great matchup. It’s a fight a lot of fans can get behind.
“I feel my best performances are in front of me, so why not challenge yourself with a Jose Aldo? He’s still dangerous. He’s still there. He’s down in [my] weight class now. He’s coming off a win, I’m coming off a win. We’re both in the top five, so I think it’s the perfect fight to make.”
Since moving to bantamweight, Aldo has gone 1-2 in three performances, though his debut fight against Marlon Moraes ended with a split decision loss that many believe should have gone the other way. The former featherweight king then engaged in a battle with Petr Yan to declare a new 135-pound champion, but he came up short, losing by fifth-round TKO.
Aldo then bounced back with a strong showing against Marlon “Chito” Vera in the final UFC card of 2020 to get his first official win at bantamweight.
Now, Garbrandt is targeting Aldo as his next opponent, and while he doesn’t feel the need to disparage the ex-champ in order to make the fight happen, he’s fully confident in the result he’ll provide.
“Aldo’s game,” Garbrandt said. “You don’t get those accolades that he’s achieved, the accomplishments that he’s achieved without being one of the best. That’s what I’m here to prove, that I am the best. I just see him as an opponent. It’s business.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for him, but I know I’m the far superior fighter skill wise, speed, power, conditioning, and that’s what I want to test myself with. I know I’ll knock him out. I’m excited for that fight.”
As far as flyweight goes, Garbrandt certainly isn’t giving up that dream, but he just doesn’t see a reason to compete at 125 pounds right now if he’s already been granted a title shot.
Instead, he’ll face a legend like Aldo with hopes that the winner of Figuiredo vs. Moreno will be ready for him before the end of the year or maybe even sooner.
“I’m not going to sit and wait,” Garbrandt said. “I’m not going to cut to 25 for a contender shot when I already have a title shot. So go fight a legend in Jose Aldo. Go get him in my cap.
“Knock him out – just stay sharp and get ready for the winner of Figgy and Moreno in August or September, and then fight whoever wins out of Petr [Yan] and [Aljamain] Sterling towards the end of the year, maybe a December card. That’s my plan.”
It’s an ambitious agenda for 2021, but Garbrandt is nothing if not goal-oriented when it comes to his career. He’s just waiting on Aldo to accept his challenge so he can start getting ready.
“I spoke to [UFC President] Dana [White], I spoke to Sean [Shelby], I spoke to Ali [Abdelaziz], they’re all for it,” Garbrandt said. “Hopefully we can get this, at least the contract signed so we can project a date in April and I can start planning out my fight camp.”