UFC 250: Cody Garbrandt Floats Fight Island Tournament Idea

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Cody Garbrandt made a triumphant return to action Saturday night at UFC 250.

After three straight losses, over a year away from the octagon, and a number of injuries, Garbrandt returned with a second-round knockout of gritty Brazilian Raphael Assuncao. A buzzer beater, in a sport which loves that sort of thing.

Rather than a revolution, or evolution, it was a return to form for the former bantamweight champion. Speaking to media outlets including Cageside Press at the UFC 250 post-fight press conference, Garbrandt explained that what he worked on ahead of the fight was “getting back to myself. Not being in front of someone. I got the speed, I got the power, I got the vision. I don’t need to stand in front of these guys and brawl, and put on a show. I can pick him apart just like that.”

Such was the case with Raphael Assuncao, a longtime veteran on a multi-fight skid himself. “I stayed calm, I waited for Assuncao to open up. Doing level changes, doing what I needed to do in our game plan with my coaches to get that victory. It feels so good to just be so in sync with the coaches, and to finally get a victory over a tough adversary.”

Saturday’s card was a bantamweight spectacle, three of five PPV bouts drawn from the 135lb division. Aljamain Sterling, who defeated Cory Sandhagen, likely has the number one contender’s spot locked up. Jose Aldo and Petr Yan are expected to fight for the vacant bantamweight belt later this year. But given his druthers, Garbrandt wants Yan.

“I heard that they’re going to Fight Island. There’s only one name that I want to fight on Fight Island, and that’s Petr Yan,” he said backstage at the UFC Apex. “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 it’s my destiny to get it back. I’ll go through whoever they need me to go through, but it’s inevitable that it’s mine.”

“Let’s do a tournament. Let’s do a bantamweight tournament. Let’s get us in there, let’s go to Fight Island for a few months. Go get quarantined out there, just bring our coaches, bring enough Trifecta food to eat — little plug right there — and let’s go to war,” he continued. To be fair, Garbrandt isn’t the first to pitch the tournament idea in the wake of Henry Cejudo’s retirement. Although the idea has fallen on deaf ears. “Let’s get this battle, let’s get this tournament, let’s see who the real champion is. Let’s go back to the old school days.”

As to what’s changed for the ex-champ, who appeared to have worked through some demons, Garbrandt admitted that part of the issue was “trying to be something that I wasn’t.”

A natural savage, as he put it, “I can flip the switch. I don’t have to get myself pumped up to fight. And that’s what I was having to do.” Working with coaches both new and old, he’s past that now. “I just got back to the love.”

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