For the first time in several months, UFC bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt is anxious to talk about fighting again.
That hasn’t been the case as Garbrandt has spent the majority of 2017 concentrating on rehabilitation after suffering a severe back injury in the lead up to his fight with T.J. Dillashaw that was originally scheduled for UFC 213 in June.
In the aftermath of that injury, Garbrandt wasn’t in a place where he wanted to talk about Dillashaw or really anything about his return to action until he was finally ready to book his next fight.
Now Garbrandt is ready to address the matchup with Dillashaw, which he hopes will take place on Nov. 4 at UFC 217 in New York City.
“I stayed away from talking about fighting cause I couldn’t get excited to talk about something that wasn’t happening,” Garbrandt said when speaking to MMAWeekly.com. “I’m staying positive but I wasn’t talking about a fight that wasn’t going to happen.
“Now that I’m feeling better and I’m campaigning for this Nov. 4 card, I feel like it’s last year again. I’m unranked and I’m hungry and that’s the fight that I want and the date that I want.”
Garbrandt released a message on Twitter last week teasing the fight with Dillashaw that led to numerous outlets speculating that he was announcing his return to action on Nov. 4. In reality, Garbrandt was hoping to create a buzz around the fight because he’s been in conversation with the UFC for weeks trying to determine the perfect date for his first title defense.
After fighting four times in 2016, which was capped off with his championship win over Dominick Cruz this past December, Garbrandt was probably due a little time off anyways.
“I’ve always been the company man and I’d love to fight Nov. 4,” Garbrandt explained. “Even before the whole [Madison Square Garden] thing was announced. That’s what me and my coaches have been working for, rehabbing and training and putting in countless hours, grinding in a different way to get healthy just to get to the fight camp.
“I want this more than anything.”
Garbrandt says the UFC wants to headline a card with his fight against Dillashaw after the former teammates engaged in a bitter war of words — often times turning physical — during this past season of “The Ultimate Fighter”.
In fact, Garbrandt welcomes the strategy to transform into a pay-per-view superstar where his fights will routinely pull in huge numbers for the UFC, but as much as the UFC has been talking to him about fighting in October, there’s just no way he’ll be ready.
Unfortunately, Garbrandt says that if he’s not fighting in October there’s a good chance the UFC may push his return back as far as December or even January 2018.
“My goal is to get a million pay-per-view buys and I think they know that and they want me to main event another card,” Garbrandt said about the UFC. “I’m really not trying to talk s–t on anybody, but I just feel like you’re rushing me to fight and they can’t put me on November cause it’s full. It’s full?
“OK now I have to wait two more months but then they wanted me to fight before [in October] but they’re telling me they’re not trying to rush me.”
Of course in a perfect world, Garbrandt would fight in November and headline the UFC’s return to Madison Square Garden, but he’d even be happy to take up the co-main event spot underneath Georges St-Pierre’s return fight against middleweight champion Michael Bisping.
“I don’t even care to be a co-main. That’s why the tweet, I want to fight in November. That’s what we talked about and that’s what we discussed this whole time,” Garbrandt said.
Whether he’s the main event or not, Garbrandt knows that a ton of people are going to want to watch him settle the score with Dillashaw once and for all and that’s just good business for everybody involved.
“That’s the fight everybody wants to see,” Garbrandt said. “I don’t care GSP-Bisping, everyone wants to see me and T.J. and has for a while. Put the bulls–t drama, the past behind it all and look at the fight. Two of the best fighters in the world at their respective weight classes, me being the greater and T.J. being close. He’s not on my level and I’ll show that.
“I’m excited for the T.J. fight, he’s a great fighter and I’m excited for the challenge.”
Now it’s just a waiting game as Garbrandt hopes to wrap up his rehab from the back injury by the end of the month before he begins preparation to start his next fight camp in September.
If he gets his wish, Garbrandt will then engage in an eight-week training camp to then defend his title against Dillashaw on Nov. 4 in New York.