Bantamweight has arguably become the deepest weight class in all of MMA, but you don’t need to convince Cody Stamann that the toughest fights possible happen at 135 pounds.
On the eve of his 13th fight with the UFC — with nine of those happening at bantamweight — the 33-year-old veteran knows the level of difficulty it takes to even crack the top 15 rankings, much less get to the top of that division.
“People that are real fans of the sport see the talent of the guys at bantamweight,” Stamann told MMA Fighting. “I think the real fans know that bantamweight is definitely the most talented division in fighting. I think second would be 145, and then third maybe 125.
“[Lightweight] is not the division I’m super excited to watch from a talent perspective. In terms of name notoriety, it’s amazing, but I think when you really want to watch two technically skilled people go at it in the cage, I would much rather tune into bantamweight, featherweight, and flyweight.”
Stamann doesn’t deny that lightweight still boasts a lot of great fighters, but he feels that division has gotten by more on name value lately than still being the marquee division in the UFC.
With reigning bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling just headlining his first pay-per-view in a battle against Henry Cejudo along with several other main events featuring 135-pound fighters, Stamann believes momentum has shifted to finally give his fighting home the credit it deserves.
“I think it’s not even necessarily a talent thing — I think bantamweight has always been a talented division, a little deeper than lightweight — but it’s the name notoriety,” Stamann said. “People know lightweights and a lot of that is because of Conor [McGregor]. He really changed everything for the 155-pounders. The same thing with [Georges St-Pierre] at 170. You have these amazing athletes that kind of elevate everyone in the game.
“How many bantamweight main events have you seen this year? There’s been like six. You’re looking at bantamweights headlining a pay-per-view card. That’s never really happened before. They’ve always been the co-main event or the third fight on the pay-per-view, but bantamweight has gotten so huge.”
Stamann hopes to join that list of bantamweights headlining cards soon. He feels he’s found his groove in his past two fights after enduring three losses in a row for the first time in his career.
Looking back now, Stamann offers no excuses for those performances, but he promises that he’s righted his ship and hopes that he’ll get a third straight win against Douglas Silva de Andrade on Saturday at UFC Charlotte.
“I had some tough stuff happen in my personal life that kind of took the fight out of me,” Stamann said. “I lost myself a little bit in that time. It took a long time to kind of crawl out of that hole and remember who I was and why I do this. There’s no greater motivator than necessity.
“I was in a situation where I was like alright, if I don’t have an outstanding performance against Eddie Wineland, like if I don’t knock him out, I’m probably done in the UFC. That necessity brought out the dog in me, and it’s what I needed. Now that I have the wind back in my sails, I don’t see anything slowing me down.”
Just like he needed, Stamann knocked out Wineland and even earned a “Performance of the Night” bonus for his troubles.
The fight against de Andrade could give him a similar opportunity to shine. Stamann said he’s approaching his career with a better strategy now than when he first arrived in the UFC.
“That was probably the biggest mistake in my MMA career — letting my ego take the wheel and not being smart and conservative with my approach about how good these guys are at the top,” Stamann said. “You can’t go from fighting and beating guys on the regional scene and never having seen that level [of talent] before ... and I fought the champ [Aljamain Sterling], I fought Merab [Dvalishvili], I fought the absolute best guys in the world with less than 10 UFC fights.
“I didn’t have the same experience as they did. Now that I do, I kind of feel like it’s my time to make a run for it. There’s absolutely no reason why I can’t make it to the top.”