by Chuck Baldwin
The story of UFC #1 ranked bantamweight Cody “No Love” Garbrandt is compelling, whether you give a rat’s ass about fighting, boxing, wrestling, UFC, or not. And I don't.
But after reading about this guy’s rough early life, the inspirational pact that catalyzed his rise to world champion UFC fighter, followed by defeat to a former teammate and the bitter rivalry surrounding that—plus his new baby and new book—I was hooked on this guy before I even spoke to him. This guy’s life is as colorful as the tattoos that reach from his chin to his toes. And he’s a nice guy, as you’ll gather in the description of his book, but was obvious in talking to him too.
Cody Garbrandt’s next fight is August 4, a rematch of the Bantamweight Title Fight that made TJ Dillashaw the UFC Champion Bantamweight near the end of 2017.
We talked about all of these things, plus a shoving match with Conor Mcgregor, a little about his business interests, some fashion, and at the end we list the men’s grooming products Cody uses on a daily basis.
You have a new book that just came out. Tell me about your book.
My new book is called The Pact and I'm co-author with Mark D'Agostino. It's the story of my life from my early upbringing, all the way to present day. My life and the things I was able to overcome.
I met this boy from our home town. He was five years old at the time. He was diagnosed with Leukemia. I reached out to him and his family—I was an amateur fighter—about helping him out, showing him he didn't have to fight and do his battle alone. I was fighting for ticket sales, so I was out hustling, selling tickets, and I talked to my brother and we decided to donate the ticket sales to the family and help out with medical bills or whatever they want.
We tried to see what we could do to get the town and the community rallied around his fight. And I had a good following from my sports in high school, and had some fights coming up already that had a good following, so we did that. And then meeting the family once Max was released from the hospital, with Max not having visitors—that's another story, meeting him.
And I was going through a lot of, obviously, dark times in my life at that time. I left college twice. I was in and out of fights, bar fights, ended up getting stabbed, and wrong place wrong time type of things, kind of rolled out in my life a lot. And making bad decisions, until I met Max, and that day I walked away from him, meeting him and hearing his story and just seeing the battle and seeing how, in his eyes, I knew that he was going to beat leukemia.
I just knew; I had the feeling that he was a warrior, and I left that day feeling changed, challenged, and renewed. Get my life clear of purpose and how I was living and what I was doing with it.
It really made me want to focus on becoming a world champion and doing this for real, living life worth living ‘cause here's this kid whose life just swept underneath him. He has cancer throughout his body, and he's fighting for his life every day. And here I was making poor decisions, pissing my talent away, and kind of half-assing it. Whatever you want to call it.
So, he’s gotta get healthy. He started coming to my fights, walking me down to the cage, amature, pro. And about seven months into his chemotherapy he wanted to give up. He wanted to quit. Taking it made him sick and that was a hard time for the family, and they called me to help out, to get his little heart changed around to taking his medicines so he wouldn't die.
I told him, Hey, you know Max, we had a good relationship then. It was a couple of years, three and a half years, that I got to know him, and I saw the struggles, saw the triumphs, saw the gains that he made. There's bad days and good days and we just leaned on each other through all those times, and this was a time that he needed help the most. It was the only time I’d ever seen him kinda wanna just give up.
And I gave him a call and told him, this is really raw and real for him, that if he didn't take his medicine that he would die.
And I said, Who is going to take me to all these fights, Maddox? I don’t fight my battles alone. You walk me to the cage, you're there for me. I said, just like everybody here, I'm here for you. I'm here for your fight. I'll make this promise to you. You don't complain about your taking your medicines. Your parents, you lash out, being angry ‘cause they make you take 'em—he’d get mad at them ‘cause they’d make him take the medicine, that was make him sick—so don't bitch or complain about taking your medicine, I said, and I promise you that you'll beat cancer and I promise you that I'll make it to the UFC and become a world champion and I'll bring you along the whole journey, the whole ride, every fight that I fight in the UFC, I'll bring you there.
And he got off the phone—he said, OK Cody, I promise you that. Seven months later, August 25th, I got a call from him that said, Hey Cody I kept my end of the deal, end of the promise, it's your turn, it's your turn. And you know, it lit a fire under me. I wasn't in the UFC. I needed to be signed, and a couple months later, I won my fifth professional fight and got a call from the UFC, got signed. That was it. Then we climbed up the UFC ranks, and he's in remission now. August 25th, It will be four years.
So he beat leukemia, and you got signed to the UFC? And you completed the pact as well as becoming world champion, right?
Right after that, yes, I completed the pact to become the world champion that we set out to do. So that was the timing of everything, with the book coming out yesterday, early in my career, early in my life. It was time that we share the story and close that chapter. We accomplished that goal, accomplished that dream, now it's on to the next journey.
Bouncing Baby Boy
You just had a baby too, right?
Yeah, yep, just had a baby. Eight weeks ago.
How is it? Tell me about your baby.
Awesome. I love that I love being a father. I wake up every day on cloud nine, I've got a little son. That I'm his protector, his provider, his safe-haven, I love it. But his name's Kai Fisher Garbrandt. He was born March 12th. Six pounds, three ounces, 19 and a half inches long, and he was as perfect as can be. Hung like a horse.
Ha ha, awesome! I wanted to ask you about how having a kid, having a child—well I guess we have to back up slightly. You became world champion, and then lost the championship to your former teammate, T.J.ig controversy around having a rematch, but I see your next scheduled fight is the rematch.
The rematch. Yeah, he's pissed.
I saw that. So, how does having a child and a family affect your drive to reclaim your title?
It affects it in a positive way. It motivates me more than ever. I think that at this time in my life I need this kind of motivation, and he came to my life and completely changed my life. Everyone told me it’s going to be life changing, but it's definitely had a positive impact for me.
In my life I needed to mature and grow into this, this father figure that I always wanted to have. So I get a chance to not only live my dreams and fighting career, but able to give something back that I always wanted to be, that father to my son. It's been great. It's been a great positive motivating factor.
I get up every day and just kiss my wife and kiss my son and I go to the gym and grind it out. A day closer to the fight, August 4th. That's what I'm working for, is getting that title back and reclaiming what T.J. stole off me November 4th. And more motivated, healthy, and just—man—the mental stage is back. You know what I mean?
All business, All business. This fight.
All business. Watching you in those 11 knockouts, you seem to be a beast in the ring. Your nickname is No Love.
Where does your style of fighting come from? That pummeling that you do after you knock them down. I haven't watched much UFC, but that looks pretty unique.
I mean I just, it's kind of like a shark when he smells blood, just kind of going for the kill. I hit these guys until their eyes roll back and their body language changes. I jump on 'em and knock 'em out. So it's kind of like one of those, it’s a primal instinct that I've always had. That I've always fought my entire life. I've always fought, to win. I had a brother that was older than me and bigger than me, so I just grew up fighting my whole entire life, and it was so natural for me to do.
Growing up, was fighting seen as a negative or positive thing, in a day to day kind of way?
In both retrospects of it, you know, fighting was always there whether it was positive or negative. Sometimes I was watching a domestic dispute inside my family or a street fight, people getting drunk, I mean whatever. It was always over, then I would go to the gym and fight. So it was always the fighting was always there in my life, and that's why I just naturally, I naturally went. It just felt so natural for me to do that. People ask me, how can you go fight someone you don't know? It's like fighting's all I've known my whole entire life, since I can ever remember. I was fighting my brother for food at a young age, and you know, just survival.
Is this something you want to instill in your own son and children?
I hope my son looks up to me and wants to do what I want to do. And I'll take him to the gym if he wants to fight and train and stuff. I mean it will be hard to watch my son fight, to be honest, cause I love him so much, but that's something he wants to do, I'm not gonna, you know, navigate his thinking or his dreams away from what's set in his heart. But I'll let him try a bunch of things. If he wants to play the piano, wants be a musician, I'll let him do that. If he wants to do gymnastics or golf, any of that.
But, you know, my wife trains. She’s from Thailand, or she has Thai blood. There’s Thai style in martial arts, in a way that's disciplinary. So she does that. We're always in the gym. She trains. I think that's kind of inevitable that he's going to be a product of his environment. He's going to be a little gym rat, a gym rat in there hanging out with mom and dad, training and just getting in there. I think that I would like for him to develop into some kind of sport or discipline that would teach him hard work, dedication, and setting goals and reaching them. So I think martial arts, wrestling, boxing, really cater all those needs, a young child should learn.
Yeah, I agree. Do you have any other hobbies besides?
I love to fish. Fishing's fun. We live by the river. And I love other things, like fashion. I really like high fashion. I’d like to start and eventually have my own clothing line and the lifestyle wardrobe outside of gym wear. All that kind of stuff. And actually business, I'm dabbling in a little bit of business with, I'm working with CopperGel, and CopperGel Ice. It’s a CBD topical cream. I'm with that and also with a partnership with a Tyson Holistic Ranch, that's THC, Tyson Holistic Ranch. That's where we grow our hemp that we make for the CopperGel Ice. So I'm just dabbling with business, but staying focused on fighting and my career for the next five years. But opening those roads and avenues I can go down, when I can walk away from my career.
Cody vs. Conor
Right, excellent. Well, you made the segue into fashion and style, but I was going to do it this way: I saw the clip where you shoved Conor McGregor, ironically defending T.J.
In a previous interview I had with Nick Tarabay, from Spartacus and The Expanse, I asked him who he admires now in fashion, and he said Conor McGregor. He said multiple times during the interview that he's the guy right now for fashion and style, so … how's your relationship with Conor after that photoshoot?
Oh we're cordial man. I've seen him a couple of times after and it’s like, Hey how's it going. Yeah, we fought on the same card in UFC 202, and brushed into each other in the hall and it was respectable. You know, he understands loyalty, and so do I. I was defending T.J. at the time when T.J. was telling us that he's on our team and the rumors aren't true. And Conor was trying to spark this up, but T.J. was a snake in the grass.
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Yeah, I was going to say, it sounds like Conor was right.
But from, that was from the horse’s mouth. We, I confronted T.J. and I'm raw and real about it; we confronted T.J. man to man, and he said, No, I'm team Austin, all the rumors are false, I'm staying here. And then two weeks later, after the show was finished up, he already had a house in Colorado and moved. And it just kind of felt like, I don't know man, I just don't do well with disloyal and liars, people that lie and are just disrespectful, and that’s why I think I took it out on—and I almost got kicked out of the UFC, because of that, for sticking up for him over Conor. Getting into a fight.
With that, really, that shove?
Yeah, oh yeah. Dana and Lorenzo are like, look man, we can't have you doing this, you know, you'll be fighting in another organization if you’re fighting on the show. That was just me sticking up for my teammates. I wasn’t even really super tight with T.J., but he was my teammate and it's a brotherhood that we have. And I would defend those guys, so.
Fashion and Style
How would you describe your sense of style or fashion?
You know, the more fashion and style that we show or that we appeal to—when it’s fight week, we have to be outfitted in Reebok. But you know on fight night, it's pressure. It's suits, so I do suits, but I do higher end fashion. I started following a lot of designers, Amire, Daniel Patrick, Virgil, Off White, Fear of God, Jerry Lorenzo, all these guys in high fashion. I like the suit aspect, but I also like the casual, kind of formal wear as well. Throw some retro Jordans on, just different and not just having suits. Like Gucci stuff, the flashy, get in your face kind of approach to that, that's what I like. The Gucci, the Lucitan, they're coming out with a lot of good lines. Their lines are amazing. You know the higher end fashion stuff.
Is it the more flashy stuff or the more conservative stuff?
Yeah, I'm more flashy. I mean, I'm covered in tattoos from neck to feet. So I can pull some of the stuff off. Some of the stuff I can't, but I try.
Do you feel more comfortable in the casual dress or dress in the suits?
I love 'em both you know, I feel like I can wear 'em both well, and I love being in a suit. I mean that's something that’s—where I'm from, you don't see too many people wearing a nice custom, tailored suit with their name on it. I'm very fortunate that I get those kind of things that are a luxury in life, with the hard work that I have done to get here.
So when did that start? How has your style evolved over time?
Oh man, I remember I bought my first suit I bought on my own was after my UFC fight. I bought a Hugo Boss suit, and I thought I was the coolest. I was awesome, you know. It wasn't custom, but it was Hugo Boss, not bad. And after my Meta fight, I was gifted a few suits from the UFC from David Algus. I got to have a tailor come up and measure me, flew up to the house and did all my measurements. I got to pick a couple of suits.
I have a company out of Sacramento, R. Douglas, that sends me phenomenal stuff, they hook it up so much. I mean, they help out my teammates; they give deals to my coaches and teammates. I got all my coaches suits for the Madison Square Garden fight. I thought everyone should, the big event for us, the world title, so I got us all dress suits and right after I won the world title, I took 'em all there and got 'em sized, and I got 'em custom suits. I feel like when I'm eating good and people around me that help me out, support me are gonna be eating good too.
That's good. That's good. Take care of everybody. So the next thing you have up, you have the fight in August, the book just came out, and you have a new baby.
Yep. Life is good man.
How do you handle it all and what's most important?
You know I just find the balance, keeping the balance. Taking it day by day. I mean, in this life you're always reminded that you're not in control, God is in control, just keep the faith, keep making the right decisions, remember that I've got to put my family first and just doing that.
5 Favorite Grooming Products
Publishers Weekly Review: The Pact - Cody Garbrandt In this magnetic memoir, Garbrandt, former UFC bantamweight champion, chronicles how Maddux Maple, a five-year-old boy diagnosed with cancer, inspired him to dedicate himself to his fighting career and God. Garbrandt grew up in the working-class town of Uhrichsville, Ohio, and his childhood was dominated by conflict and violence. With brutal scenes of violence studded with moments of grace and revelation, Garbrandt's passionate story will appeal mainly to fans of mixed martial arts.