UFC bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt was supposed to be competing this weekend in a fight against fellow “Ultimate Fighter” coach T.J. Dillashaw but a back injury forced him out of the main event for International Fight Week in Las Vegas.
Instead of fighting Dillashaw inside the Octagon, Garbrandt has been rehabilitating his injured back with hopes of returning to action before the end of the year.
Garbrandt hasn’t fought in 2017 after defeating Dominick Cruz to become bantamweight champion before signing on to participate in the latest season of the reality show with Dillashaw, who is his former teammate and top ranked contender in the division.
“I’ve been doing rehab extensively in Sacramento and obviously here at the UFC [Performance] Institute, it’s great to be able to come out here and do that,” Garbrandt said when speaking to “TUF Talk”. “It’s going great. My coaches and my teammates and my [physical therapist] are all on the same [page], my progress has been great. So I’m feeling healthy, excited to hopefully get back in there soon.
“It’s very bittersweet [not fighting at UFC 213]. I was going to weigh-in on Friday, have my 26th birthday, weigh-in, go celebrate, kick T.J.’s butt and then move on. So right now I’ve just got to prolong this with him and all this drama but I’m excited to finally lock horns with him.”
As far as his timeline for a return to action, Garbrandt isn’t expected to be ready until near the end of 2017 so it doesn’t appear he’ll be filling a slot on any of the upcoming pay-per-view main events in September or October.
“I would say earliest is November,” Garbrandt revealed. “Give my back enough time [to heal]. I did two procedures, one here in the States that they told me I was going to be fine after the stem cells. I went back to training, I lasted for three days and I was in the worst pain. I couldn’t even walk. Then they flew me over to Germany and that took the pain, the sciatic [nerve] down away, but I’m still not able to do any of my life, full fighting.
“So I’m just making sure my back holds up so I don’t jump into a fight and have to pull out. It’s not something I want to have to do. So hopefully November I’ll be ready to go.”
From all accounts, Garbrandt will still face Dillashaw when he returns to action this year following an ill-fated attempt from the UFC to put the former champion into a fight with flyweight king Demetrious Johnson in August.
Dillashaw campaigned heavily for the fight after Garbrandt suffered his injury but ultimately the two sides couldn’t come together on an agreement after Johnson raised several concerns about the potential matchup.
What angered Garbrandt more than anything with that situation was Dillashaw stealing away his plan to eventually make the move down to 125-pounds to challenge Johnson, who is currently tied for the most title defenses in UFC history.
“I’m blown away by that,” Garbrandt said about Dillashaw. “That’s my goal, that’s what I talked to Dana [White] and Sean [Shelby] about. Defeating T.J. and fighting Demetrious [Johnson] at a later date and we were all for that. Obviously, I got injured, things happen, T.J. wasn’t losing a title shot against me. He was still getting a title shot but he knew going down and fighting Demetrious was an easier fight for him.”
As it turns out, Dillashaw won’t be getting the fight with Johnson and all signs are pointing towards the matchup with Garbrandt happening as soon as he’s healthy enough to accept a new date for their highly anticipated bout.
That’s good news for Garbrandt, who wants nothing more than to settle the score with Dillashaw once and for all, especially after they nearly came to blows a couple of times while filming on “The Ultimate Fighter” this past season.
“I know T.J. like the back of my hand to be honest. Being around him, it was never an issue until he went to the media and did all these interviews saying I was different on and off camera about incidents of him getting choked up,” Garbrandt said. “The second time he got choked up it was just asking him about like T.J. we’re cool when we see each other, nod heads and go on with our day. Obviously with the cameras and we’re at weigh-ins, it’s blowing up sometimes, especially with my coaches, his coaches coming in adding the other drama they don’t see outside of that but for me it was never a problem with him until he went into the media trying to build this character that he wasn’t, that he was portraying.
“That’s not T.J. and everybody knows that’s not T.J. but I’m acting irrational and grabbing him. I just don’t like being around fake people.”