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UFC 269 star Cody Garbrandt: ‘I’ve been through 1,200 days of pain, and I’m going through it again’

When Cody Garbrandt produced one of the greatest belt fights in UFC history, arguably the greatest bantamweight of all time with ease, no one could have predicted what would happen next.

It’s December 30, 2016, Garbrandt is 25, and he’s just jumped around Dominick Cruz (literally) to extend his winning streak to 11-0, his boxing has proven too much more than another competitor. When UFC president Dana White wrapped the bantamweight belt around Garbrandt’s waist, many fans predicted that the new champion would continue to dominate the tournament for years to come.

Instead, the American lost the title 11 months later, being defeated in the second round by teammate TJ Dillashaw at Madison Square Garden. Garbrandt would wait nine months for an instant rematch with his countryman, only to suffer the same result – this time in the first round.

By March 2019, the Ohio native’s soccer title win had become a distant memory, as he was knocked out for the third consecutive game. This time, it was Pedro Munhoz who gave Garbrandt his first KO, a fighter who – like Dillashaw – has seen their careers ruined when testing positive for performance enhancers.

Finally, in July 2020, Garbrandt reached the point of pardon. When “No Love” stopped Raphael Assuncao with a KO defeat – perhaps the most dramatic ending of the year – he ended a seemingly eternal wait for a victory.

“How long has it been?” he asked softly, as we spoke over Zoom. “About 1,200 days,” my reluctant reply.

“One thousand, two hundred,” said Garbrandt, gazing into space.

He stared silently for a moment, as if reliving those three and a half years for a few moments.

Garbrandt reacts after losing to rival TJ Dillashaw for the second time in August 2018

(Getty)

“One thousand, two hundred days…”

Another long pause.

“A lot of pain,” he said at last. “Lots of soul searching. There’s a lot of good that comes out of it, a lot of things that I have to change. And my son was brought into the world. I had some injuries that had to be sidelined for a while, so I had to spend time with him. Timing is everything. I was able to be there for the first few months of his life, I learned a lot about being a father.

“I wouldn’t change anything. I will go through it all again. ”

It took an almost incomprehensible amount of reserve resilience for Garbrandt to weather that unfavorable period in his career, a trait he learned largely from his friendship with the young survivor. Maddux Maple cancer.

In Garbrandt’s 2018 autobiography Pact, he details a promise he made to Maple, who was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of 5. Garbrandt, still just a teenager when he met Maple, promised his Ohioan co-worker that he would make it to the UFC and bring his young friend with him. Maple, in turn, promised to battle her cancer until it was eliminated.

Both deliver on their promises.

Garbrandt, now 30, admits: “During the time I met Maddux, I was running around doing things I shouldn’t have done.

“I was 18, 19 years old, doing something stupid – going to bars, drinking, just reckless. He came into my life and brought so many different emotions with him.

“While watching him fight for his life, I was very distant. It was definitely a huge motivation that both of us always had together, to never give up. He cannot give up, because if he gives up, he will die. I was basically fighting to save my life, he was fighting to save my life. We did it together.

“It’s funny when you bring it up, because I talked to my mom two days ago and she already knows that he has his driver’s license. He is 15 years old, so he can drive with his parents. It’s great to see him flourish in life.

“It was crazy, the battles that we endured and overcame, resilient. He definitely changed my life and gave me a lot of perspective. I’m grateful for the battles we’ve gone through together, and the battles we continue to go through.”

Garbrandt (12-4) is hoping his next fight will be towards the UFC flyweight belt, with his first fight at 125lbs coming on Saturday at UFC 269. Kai Kara-France (22-9) will stand on the other side of the Octagon.

Garbrandt finally committed to resigning to a new division in May, after being eliminated by Rob Font. “No Love” had originally planned to move to the flyweight division last year, but a serious Covid-19 match derailed his expected title against then-champion Deiveson Figueosystemo.

Garbrandt dances during the decisive win over Dominick Cruz in 2016

(Getty)

“Like I said, everything is about timing,” Garbrandt repeated. “I had a headline shot where I was supposed to fight Figuentico, obviously Covid took that away… but that allowed me to really, really plan this weight loss bout. and the right way to deal with it.

“I have been thinking about losing weight for years. I don’t get too big if I’m cutting down to 135lb and reloading; I noticed after my last game that I was like 142lb with my clothes. These weights are getting bigger and bigger, and my reloading or reloading… maybe I didn’t do it right.

“I just feel good here with 125lb. I like what it makes me do: just fully focus, no corner cuts.

“How many people in this world become world champions? Even smaller is the figure of becoming a two-weight world champion.

“I was the champion before, I did it easily. I know this time is going to be a lot tougher.”

Perhaps the days of completing it easily are behind Garbrandt, or perhaps his clash with Kara-France will mark the rebirth of one of MMA’s finest fighters. Maybe it will even mark the start of another incredible surge to UFC gold.

https://www.independent.co.uk/sport/ufc/ufc-269-cody-garbrandt-kai-kara-france-b1973002.html UFC 269 star Cody Garbrandt: ‘I’ve been through 1,200 days of pain, and I’m going through it again’

JACLYN DIAZ

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