For all the bad blood UFC bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt harbors for former teammate TJ Dillashaw, he actually owes him a debt of gratitude.
It was Garbrandt’s arrival in Sacramento several years ago, when he first joined Team Alpha Male, that his path toward becoming the best in the world truly began.
It wasn’t just the training or the coaching that Garbrandt received, however, because he also got the chance to spend round after round with Dillashaw, who was already deep into his own UFC career and just a year away from winning the title in an upset against former champion Renan Barao.
During those sparring sessions, Garbrandt felt what it was like to throw down with the champion and he figured out something rather prophetic that has never left him as he stormed through the bantamweight division over the past year.
If Dillashaw was the best the division had to offer, Garbrandt knew he was going to be champion sooner rather than later.
“I’m supremely confident against TJ. He’s actually given me the most confidence I’ve had in my career to really push forward and give it all I had,” Garbrandt said when speaking to MMAWeekly.com. “When he was world champion, I was 1-0 and working my way up. I was training with him [thinking] this guy’s the world champion? I know I’m going to be a world champion.
“He gave me the supreme confidence to know that if I just stick to the course that I’m at, training and being a good person, that I’m going to make it happen and here I am, 26 years old now, world champion.”
Dillashaw claims that he used to beat Garbrandt so badly that he’d leave the gym in tears. Conversely, Garbrandt has touted a tape he possesses that shows him knocking out Dillashaw during one particularly brutal sparring session that left the former champion laid out on the mat.
Fighters will all say what happens in the gym doesn’t always translate to what will happen in an actual fight, but Garbrandt says thanks to Dillashaw’s unrelenting competitiveness, he’s quite sure he’s seen everything the top ranked contender has to offer.
“I don’t feel TJ’s any more of a threat. I know him, I’ve trained with him, I’ve beat him up in practice,” Garbrandt said. “I know that’s practice, but with a guy like TJ, he doesn’t like to lose an inch, a round, a submission, anything. So I know it was full-on fighting. So I’m supremely confident going in there Nov. 4.”
Another valuable lesson that Garbrandt took from those sparring sessions with Dillashaw was seeing how much he hated eating punches.
There’s not a single fighter on the planet who should actually enjoy getting hit, but Garbrandt says Dillashaw’s just not built for it and that’s why he’s positive that he only needs one good shot to land before this fight will be finished.
In fact, Garbrandt is so confident that he’ll finish Dillashaw by knockout that if his former teammate even finds a way to survive to a decision he should leave Madison Square Garden with his head held high, feeling like he’s accomplished something even if he’ll never hold the bantamweight title again.
“I’m better than him everywhere and I guarantee it — he doesn’t have a strong chin,” Garbrandt said about Dillashaw. “He will not be able to take a strike, a blow from me with four-ounce gloves on. He wasn’t able to do it with a 16-ounce glove and he won’t be able to do it in a four-ounce glove. So if TJ makes it all five rounds, goes the distance, that’s a win for him.
“I honestly think where I [said I would hit] [Takeya] Mizugaki with the first hard punch, he’ll go out. The first hard punch I land on TJ, he’ll go to sleep. He’ll go to sleep and I’ll rain down punches on him.”