They’re ready to go to war again.
At UFC 227, bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw and Cody Garbrandt write a new chapter to their storied rivalry.
Heading into their highly anticipated rematch, the dynamic between the former teammates is drastically different.
In the buildup to their first clash at UFC 217, then-champion Garbrandt went out of his way to bash Dillashaw at every turn, citing the former champion’s dramatic departure from Urijah Faber’s Team Alpha Male, which recruited Dillashaw in the early stages of his career, and is also home to “No Love”.
The UFC saw dollar signs, enlisting the two as coaches on The Ultimate Fighter. Fans who had once been critical of Dillashaw’s departure from his former team were suddenly sympathetic because of Garbrandt’s bullying antics, souring them on the whole Alpha Male drama in the process.
The fight itself delivered.
After being dropped in the dying seconds of round one, Dillashaw rallied, knocking out the previously undefeated Garbrandt in the second to become a two-time champion.
After questions surrounding the next challenger to the 135lbs throne, including the possibility of a potential superfight with flyweight king and pound for pound number one Demetrious Johnson being floated around by Dillashaw, Garbrandt was granted an immediate rematch.
Heading into part 2, Garbrandt has been uncharacteristically quiet. No trash talk to speak of, no personal attacks, no nothing. Just a promise to settle the score. The former champion has made it clear that he was less than 100% when they first fought and believes in his heart of hearts he is still the rightful owner of the strap. Now, with his injuries taken care of, and after the birth of his first child, Garbrandt claims to be hungrier than ever before.
Dillashaw on the other hand, feels as though Garbrandt isn’t worthy of a title shot. And he may just be right. Garbrandt had never successfully defended his title, not to mention the fact that he lost by stoppage in his fight with Dillashaw.
But, for a promotion with a history of rewarding championship opportunities to fighters coming off of loses, it’s nothing to bat an eye at. Garbrandt could well be a breakout star for the UFC, should he be promoted properly.
While he may not agree with the rematch being next, Dillashaw has made it clear that he welcomes any opportunity to punch Garbrandt in the face. Interesting to note, Dillashaw too, recently became a first-time father, adding fuel to his fire.
For the champion, a win over his most heated opponent would move him one step closer to cementing his legacy as one of, if not the best bantamweight the sport has ever seen.
For “No Love”, winning the belt back would be a dream come true. But perhaps even more special? The chance at redemption that presents itself in Los Angeles on Saturday night.
Regardless of the outcome, fans can rest assured that the UFC bantamweight division is in good hands. Don’t be surprised if this story wages on for a long, long time.