Heading into UFC 207, we openly wondered if defending bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz had managed to mentally disrupt his challenger Cody Garbrandt. After his upset victory, the new champion said it was he who had messed with the mind of "The Dominator."
Furthermore, "No Love" insisted that he knew it all along. "I knew Dominick was different - the way he was acting, getting very emotional. I could feel that presence off of him," #CodyGarbrandt said, after earning a decision win to become bantamweight champ, Friday in Las Vegas.
"There was a different presence of him all week, all fight camp. I really got into his head, and that showed. He fought emotionally and he didn't have any answers for me. I truly believe that I'm the better fighter, the faster fighter, the stronger fighter, and I wanted it more. But, hats off to him. He's amazing, he's great, but I train hard and I believe in myself. That's the thing - self-belief, and having a great team, coaches and people that care about me."
If Garbrandt had irritated #DominckCruz prior to the fight, he believes that he confounded his opponent once the real battle began. "I knew that he'd be a desperate man in there when he couldn't take me down, when he couldn't get his offense going," he continued.
"And, that's what you saw - a desperate Dominick Cruz. A very desperate Dominick Cruz to figure me out. He was getting hit with hard shots and that changes the whole game plan of a fight."
At just 25 years of age, Garbrandt promised that his journey in MMA hasn't reached its pinnacle, but instead that he's just getting going. "This is just the start for me. I'm 11-0," he observed.
"My debut was four years ago, with a year layoff...Team Alpha Male polished me up and brought this dream to me. This is them, bread and butter. Urijah Faber, I couldn't do it without him. He's the one that paved the way for fighters like myself."
Garbrandt has done just what he and his Team Alpha Male crew believed he could do. At the close of 2016, with four wins to his credit and a victory over the most accomplished bantamweight of all-time, the young king said he deserves to be considered the top fighter of the past year.
"This year has been an amazing year. We set out to be a world champion. I wrote on a piece of paper that I'd make it to the UFC by 2015, and the next line I wrote that I'd be world champion by 2017. I'm one day early of my prediction," he boasted.
"I went from unranked to world champion in the same calendar year. I think that has to do something...I think I should deserve fighter of the year."
If Garbrandt's first title-defense ends up being to his former teammate and former bantamweight champ TJ Dillashaw, the Ohio native insisted that he'll welcome the challenge. After all, according to Garbrandt he's been able to handle Dillashaw for years back in the training room.
"I'm the baddest dude in the world, so bring them all," he invited.
"I already knew what I did to Dillashaw, and I was 1-0. I was green, I was getting my ears wet, I was just a fighter at heart.
"I've been the uncrowned champion, even when Dillashaw was on the team, and now I got this. So, anybody in my division come and take it from me."