UFC 250’s Cody Garbrandt Excited to Climb the Rankings Again: “Once a Hunter, Always a Hunter”

Former bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt finally returns to the octagon this weekend at UFC 250. Emphasis on finally. Garbrandt, who lost his belt to T.J. Dillashaw in 2017, has had to deal with hardships personal and professional in subsequent years.

Garbrandt last fought in March 2019, where he was knocked out by Pedro Munhoz at UFC 235. He was expected to return at UFC on ESPN 8 in March, in Columbus, Ohio. Kidney troubles forced him out of the bout. Not that it mattered; due to the coronavirus pandemic, the event was cancelled anyway.

With so much going on, Garbrandt can be forgiven of being dismissive of the other 135lb’ers on the card, specifically Cory Sandhagen and Aljamain Sterling. “I really don’t care about the other bantamweights. Just focused on my fight, being the best and winning those fights,” he said at Thursday’s UFC 250 virtual media day.

That said, Garbrandt, who faces Raphael Assuncao on Saturday at the UFC Apex, added that he does “look forward to future match-ups with them in the future, and seeing how this bantamweight division unfolds after this weekend. And go on from there.”

With the loss of his title, to a fighter later suspended for EPO use, a trio of stoppage losses, the kidney issues, back troubles, and so on, there’s been a lot of obstacles. The biggest challenge, suggested Garbrandt, has been one of motivation.

“Life has thrown a lot of challenges, inside of the career, outside of the career. Life itself. For me, it wasn’t really a challenge, it was just about staying motivated, staying driven, knowing that life is a marathon not a sprint,” he explained. “Just constantly reminding myself that you go through these hardships in your life, these hard roads you have to battle up. I knew that losing the title was gonna be a hard thing to do, but to regain it was even going to be harder. So having to just basically, mentally build myself up for what I was able to do, what was able to be done to reclaim that title.”

“I feel like I’ve battled my demons, corrected a lot of my errors, mistakes, things that I needed to do,” he added.

Garbrandt also took himself out of his comfort zone, splitting his time between Team Alpha Male and New Jersey, where he works with Mark Henry and Ricardo Almeida. Which has meant time away from his family, but Garbrandt expects to see results. “I think this is gonna be a huge, huge payoff,” he stated.

On opponent Assuncao, Garbrandt admitted that the Brazilian isn’t known for the most exciting fights. Still, he said, “there’s not many WEC guys left around. He’s one of those guys that’s fought, and been in the top five for quite some time now.”

In the past, Garbrandt had considered a drop to flyweight. If it happens, it happens seems to be the approach now. It’s bantamweight that is the focus.

“If it’s in my cards to go down to 25 and become the flyweight champion as well as the bantamweight champion, we’ll do that. I’ll talk with my coaches and managers,” Cody “No Love” said Thursday. “First and foremost, I have a tough adversary in Raphael Assuncao this Saturday that I’m focused on. But you always try to have your second move ready to go. It’s getting back to the throne. That’s what I want. I want the bantamweight title back. I’m very excited for that opportunity, to climb the ranks again. Once a hunter, always a hunter.”

UFC 250 takes place this Saturday, June 6, at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada. The main card airs live on PPV following prelims on ESPN (TSN in Canada).