Undefeated prospect Cody Garbrandt steps into the octagon in the main event of UFC Fight Night 88 Sunday night at the Mandalay Bay Events Center.
In less than four years as a pro, the 24-year-old already has eight wins with seven coming by knockout.
It’s exactly how Garbrandt planned.
“I knew these fights were in front of me if I just worked hard and dedicated myself, and now it’s here,” Garbrandt said. “I’ve dreamt of these times every since I stepped inside the cage as an amateur.”
Not only did he anticipate this bantamweight bout with Thomas Almeida, which finishes a Fox Sports 1 broadcast that begins at 4 p.m., he called his shot.
“A lot of people seem to forget that I asked for this fight,” Garbrandt said. “I asked for (John) Lineker, I asked for Almeida and then I’m asking for a title shot.”
Garbrandt was scheduled to fight Lineker on Feb. 21 before Lineker pulled out due to sickness. Garbrandt quickly called out the seventh-ranked Almeida (20-0, 16 KOs).
What the Ohio native lacks in experience, he more than makes up for in brashness.
Garbrandt had to be pulled away from Almeida’s teammate Felipe Arantes Thursday after the two exchanged words in the lobby of Mandalay Bay.
Garbrandt took to social media after the incident, tweeting, “Your team is only making it worst for you trying to start (expletive) in the hotel I'll smack everyone of you…”
“(Almeida) never replied but all of his team did, so his team can get it too,” Garbrandt said at Friday’s open workouts. “It was just some mean mugging. I like it. It’s an anticipated matchup with two talented fighters so it gets hostile.”
Almeida took a much quieter approach.
“I didn’t really hear about it,” Almeida said. “My thing is the fight inside the octagon and I’ll show my fight there.”
Garbrandt said he had always fed off of emotion in fighting, and facing Almeida will be no different.
“I like the street-fight mentality,” Garbrandt said. “Kill or be killed and that’s what I’m there to do. I like to engage in the emotions and the adrenaline.”
While Garbrandt said his teammates encouraged his emotional fighting style, there is one person wary of its side effects.
“My mom (tells me) all the time,” Garbrandt laughed. “She called me this morning. She’s momma bear so she just wanted to make sure I’m levelheaded. She knows how crazy I am.”
The aggressiveness is almost certain to continue inside the octagon.
Garbrandt and Almeida have finished 90 percent of their opponents, with a combined 21 finishes in the first round.
“Once I hit him once it’s going to turn into a brawl I know it,” Garbrandt said. “And that’s what I’m waiting for because I’m a better brawler than him, I’m a better fighter than him and I’m a better martial artist than him.”
In case the fight – which is scheduled for five rounds – does drag into the later rounds, Garbrandt says he’s prepared.
“I’ve been excited for this fight,” Garbrandt said. “It’s really going to show more of my skills. I haven’t had to show much of my wrestling, my jiu-jitsu or my heart or determination. That’s a side that people haven’t seen of me that I’ve always had.”
A knockout Sunday night could catapult Garbrandt towards a title shot in the crowded 135-pound division. Dominck Cruz and Urijah Faber will battle for the bantamweight belt at UFC 199 June 4 in Los Angeles.
“It puts me up in the top of the division where I belong,” Garbrandt said. “I want to fight the guys that are supposed to be tough, and knock them off and get a shot at that title. My eyes are on the gold.”