Former UFC bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt still believes he’s the No. 1 contender for the promotion’s flyweight belt, but his manager believes there are other options on the table right now, as well.
With UFC flyweight champ Deiveson Figueiredo expected to rematch Mexican contender Brandon Moreno following their thrilling majority draw earlier this month, Ali Abdelaziz has another idea for his client.
“I’m interested in Cody Garbrandt vs. Jose Aldo at 135 pounds,” Abdelaziz told MMA Junkie. “If the flyweight champ is available, 100 percent Cody is the No. 1 contender. That’s what Dana White says. If he’s not available, everybody is booked or coming from losses.
“I think Cody needs a fight to get him up, and I think Jose Aldo is a fight to get him up. I think that’s a five-round fight, main event. Why not?”
Garbrandt (12-3 MMA, 7-3 UFC) saw action most recently in June, picking up a brutal knockout of perennial bantamweight contender Raphael Assuncao. “No Love” then decided to make the move down to 125 pounds to challenge Figueiredo for the title, and the two were expected to meet at November’s UFC 255. However, Garbrandt first tore a bicep and then had to deal with COVID-19, forcing him out of the contest.
Garbrandt’s absence allowed Alex Perez to step into a flyweight title shot, though he was submitted in the opening round. Champ Figueiredo then went on to face Moreno in a “Fight of the Year” candidate, which UFC president White had already said will lead to an immediate rematch in 2021.
Meanwhile, Aldo (29-7 MMA, 11- UFC) was in vintage form earlier this month in a win over Marlon Vera, after which he called for a fight with fellow former UFC champ T.J. Dillashaw.
Abdelaziz doesn’t believe Dillashaw, who is returning from a two-year U.S. Anti-Doping Agency-issued suspension, should step in to a fight of that level.
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“I think T.J. needs to sit his ass down,” Abdelaziz said. “He’s not even in the rankings – or maybe he can fight Rob Font or some of these guys. But Cody Garbandt vs. Jose Aldo, I think that would be a huge fight for the UFC.”
Garbrandt is currently No. 6 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMA Junkie bantamweight rankings, with Aldo checking in at No. 8, so the fight would certainly have some real impact at 135 pounds. And with champ Petr Yan still waiting to reschedule his next title defense against Aljamain Sterling, as well as Cory Sandhagen vs. Frankie Edgar, Pedro Munhoz vs. Jimmie Rivera, Raphael Assuncao vs. Raoni Barcelos and Dominick Cruz vs. Casey Kenny all booked, Abdelaziz says it’s simply the right fight to make right now.
Unless, of course, that 125-pound title fight somehow materializes, instead.
“No disrespect to the champs at ’25 or ’35, Cody is the biggest name in these two divisions,” Abdelaziz said. “He’s one of the biggest stars in either division. For the divisions to grow, they need names like Cody. Cody brings in the superstar factor. Win or lose or draw, it’s good for everybody.
“A healthy, focused Cody Garbrandt is a very dangerous Cody Garbrandt. I think he can beat anybody on any given night, as long as he is healthy and focused, and I believe he matches up with the champ at 125 very well. I think he’ll knock him out. I think stylistically, Cody is a very bad matchup for Petr Yan, too. To be honest with you, I think Cody, he fights Aldo, he wins, he goes down and fights at ’25 and then comes back and try to be a double champ.
“Cody is still 27 years old. He’s young. We think of Cody Garbrandt as an old guy, but now he has Chris Holdsworth and Mark Henry working together. He has an amazing team, and Danny Castillo and all those guys, they are all cooperating. They brought somebody like Mark Henry in, and they put all their great minds together. I think great things can only come out of there.”