Cody Garbrandt said this about TJ Dillashaw, who said that about Garbrandt, who said the thing about Dillashaw, who said the other thing about Garbrandt.
And so the back-and-forth dance has gone between the two UFC bantamweights and former teammates at Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, California, with neither fighter willing to relinquish the lead foot or change the song.
The narrative for Garbrandt’s title defense against Dillashaw on Saturday in the UFC 217 co-main event at Madison Square Garden has been centered on the feud between two of the top 135-pounders in the world. To the point where you wonder if they’ll have anything to talk about when they each face their next opponents.
“Cody finds something. I think that’s what drives him. He finds something that [expletive] him off about the other guy and he just gets going,” UFC on Fox analyst Kenny Florian said Friday afternoon. “You kind of have to figure out how your mind works and what gets you up for a fight, and know yourself. Cody is fueled by controversy and chaos, and it’s working for him so I say keep going with it.”
This will be the first title defense for Garbrandt, 26, from Ohio, since winning the title from Dominick Cruz last December. A back injury delayed his fight with Dillashaw, 31, who lost the title to Cruz in January 2016, from the summer.
That gave all interested parties more time to talk, more time to make packaged clips for TV and digital platforms, more time to buy into the buildup, more time for mischievous social media maneuvers by the fighters.
Garbrandt on Thursday night posted a video on his Instagram account Thursday night that he said was gym footage of him knocking out Dillashaw in a sparring session. The short and grainy clip does show someone dropping someone else with an overhand right, but no faces can be seen. The clip ends with the fighter falling, so it’s unclear if that person got back up right away or not. This footage has been a topic of banter between the two fighters all throughout their feud.
Their time as teammates gave Garbrandt “supreme confidence,” he said in multiple interviews this week. But the two fighters, no matter where they train now and what they incorporate into their repertoire, have great familiarity with what the other can do in a fight. So does that help or hurt either fighter nearly two years since Dillashaw left Team Alpha Male?
“It’s probably an advantage for Cody a little bit,” Florian said. “Because when TJ was in camp, TJ was, to use a bad pun, the alpha in the gym. He was the champion, Cody was kind of that up-and-comer still trying to prove himself but had the opportunity to train with the champ on a regular basis.”
Whether that was Garbrandt in the Instagram clip or not, this much is accurate: He has power. Plenty of it. Nine of his 11 pro fights, all wins, ended via knockout, including seven in the first round. Three of his four amateur MMA fights ended in a knockout.
Dillashaw (14-3) has a wrestling pedigree and won his last two fights by decision. He does have six knockouts though, most recently a fourth-round TKO of Renan Barao in July 2015. He also has three submissions, the last coming in 2012.
“Where TJ Dillashaw is most effective against most people, I think is where he’s most vulnerable against someone like Cody,” Florian said. “Being in the pocket is where he’s effective, but Cody hits a lot harder and that’s where he gets a lot of knockdowns and knockouts. TJ hits hard but not like Cody. Cody has a special kind of power in both hands that you just can’t teach. I think if TJ wants to win this fight, I would advise him to fight him on the outside, point fight him and go for the decision.”