After a brutal battle with COVID-19, former UFC bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt is ready to make a return to action, and it’s safe to say that he’s looking to make a splash in multiple divisions.
Garbrandt, who meets Rob Font in the main event of UFC Fight Night 188 on Saturday, was scheduled to face 125-pound titleholder Deiveson Figueiredo last November, but he was forced to withdraw after testing positive for the coronavirus. The months that followed were extremely difficult for “No Love” as symptoms lingered, but he’s now ready to get his hands back on gold, and he’s interested in doing so at both flyweight and bantamweight.
The bantamweight division is in a bit of a flux at the moment, as champion Aljamain Sterling, who just had neck surgery, will undoubtedly rematch Petr Yan after the pair’s first bout ended with Yan being disqualified and Sterling winning the belt. At flyweight, meanwhile, Figueiredo will rematch Brandon Moreno on June 12 after their instant classic last December.
In Garbrandt’s mind, a win over Font could set him up to challenge for either of those titles in the near future.
“I’m looking at being a two-time weight division champion,” Garbrandt told MMAJunkie. “That’s my goal. I know we have a little bit of a circus act up front with Aljamain and Yan, they have to run that back. Aljamain just had neck surgery, so that’s going to be prolonged for a little bit. I feel like this fight right here is a title eliminator, so I finish Rob on Saturday, I have options. I have options, too, at bantamweight and be next in line for that – it works out perfect for me.
“You look back at November and with COVID and the things it took away from my life, but it set me up better with more opportunities. I win this fight on Saturday, I can be next in line for a bantamweight title shot, then (Figueiredo) and (Moreno) fight a few weeks after me. … Hopefully, no one gets injured in there, they can come out unscathed, and we can make that fight happen sooner than later. That’s the perfect world, but a lot of things go on with that.”
The former champion, who was last seen scoring a vicious one-punch knockout victory over Raphael Assuncao last June, isn’t crazy to believe a title shot could await him in both divisions. After all, he was already previously scheduled to challenge Figueiredo, and given that he’s already ranked No. 4 at bantamweight, a win on Saturday would move him one step closer to a shot at 135 pounds.
However, for any of this to become a reality, “No Love” will have to get by the surging Font, which will be no easy task. A winner of three-straight, New England’s Font is coming off a spectacular first-round TKO victory over former title challenger Marlon Moraes.
Garbrandt, however, plans to show Font that he’s on a different level on Saturday night before once again chasing down UFC gold.
“It’s a lot being in a main event, in a high-profile fight, and you’re facing Cody Garbrandt,” Garbrandt said. “You’re not facing Marlon Moraes, you’re not facing Ricky Simon, you’re not facing Sergio Pettis. You’re facing a hungry Cody Garbrandt who’s ready to get back to his throne.”
Long Island-based sports writer covering MMA, Boxing, and the New York Jets.