Inside Cody Garbrandt And T.J. Dillashaw's Feud

Bitter rivalries have always been a staple of any sport, and in mixed martial arts these rivalries can be quite intense. In the UFC, for instance, pairs such as Tito Ortiz and Chuck Liddell, or Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier have had notable feuds that got quite personal when it came to their comments in interviews and press conferences. And they are far from the only fighters whose remarks outside the octagon have led to some major beef — you need not look much further than Conor McGregor and his rivalries against competitors like Nate Diaz and Khabib Nurmagomedov.

Compared to the ones we mentioned above, the rivalry between Cody Garbrandt and T.J. Dillashaw hasn't been talked about as often. But that doesn't make it any less interesting or less contentious, considering the history both men have had with each other through the years. Indeed, these two individuals once represented the same gym and were mentored by the same UFC veteran. But when Dillashaw opted to take his talents elsewhere, things got tense almost immediately. Here's the true story behind Cody Garbrandt and T.J. Dillashaw's real-life feud.

Origins of the feud: T.J. Dillashaw leaves Team Alpha Male

Cody Garbrandt and T.J. Dillashaw both got their big break in MMA as members of Sacramento-based gym Team Alpha Male, which was founded by longtime UFC bantamweight Urijah Faber. As reported by Rolling Stone, Faber was so high on Dillashaw as of early 2014 that he hyped up the younger fighter as someone who could potentially beat the then-undefeated UFC bantamweight champion, Renan Barao. That was exactly what happened in May of that year, where Dillashaw defeated Barao to win the belt at UFC 173.

By that time, however, Dillashaw's relationship with his mentor wasn't as copacetic as it used to be. He was spending more time working with striking coach Duane Ludwig, who had left Team Alpha Male due to "conflicts" with Faber. Initially, T.J. was able to split time between Ludwig and Alpha Male, but things got to a point where Faber gave him an ultimatum — either stay with us or get out.

After Dillashaw chose to leave Team Alpha Male, Faber and Garbrandt wasted little time blasting their former teammate. Faber alleged that T.J. would "try to hurt people" during training, while Garbrandt backed up his mentor by accusing Dillashaw of landing a cheap shot against fellow Alpha Male fighter Chris Holdsworth. "Chris choked him out, and T.J. got up and f***ing kneed him in the back of the head when he was down on the mat," he explained.

Dillashaw and Garbrandt 'weren't really friends'

Contrary to what you may think, the T.J. Dillashaw vs. Cody Garbrandt feud was not one of those rivalries that started out as a friendship. The aforementioned Rolling Stone article also quoted Dillashaw, who stressed that he never considered Garbrandt to be one of his buddies. 

"We weren't really friends; we didn't like hang out outside the gym," he clarified. "He was [the] hungry kid coming into the gym. I had the belt at the time when he was coming in. I coached him at practices, I would hold mitts for him before his first couple UFC fights, but it was strictly business. He was just a training partner. We weren't really friends outside the gym."

Those comments were made shortly before T.J. and Cody were set to square off in the octagon for the first time at UFC 217 in November 2017. However, there was another incident before the event that underscored how much animosity the two had toward each other at that point in their careers.

Garbrandt chokes Dillashaw on TUF but loses to him at UFC 217

After T.J. Dillashaw lost the bantamweight title to Dominick Cruz in January 2016, Cody Garbrandt set himself up for an eventual fight against his rival by winning the belt from Cruz in December of that year. A fight between both men was booked for UFC 213 in July 2017, and the months leading up to the event saw the two bantamweights colorfully insist that they dominated the other during their Team Alpha Male sparring sessions. Additionally, the UFC built up their rivalry by making them coaches of their respective teams in season 25 of The Ultimate Fighter.

The tension between both fighters heated up very quickly, with Garbrandt and Dillashaw having a verbal altercation that turned physical when the former grabbed the latter by the throat. The brawl could have gotten much worse had the members of their respective teams not stepped in to pull their coaches apart. Furthermore, as Bleacher Report opined, Garbrandt's actions were "surprising" even for someone like him who was known for being a rather hot-tempered competitor.

Garbrandt suffered an injury that prevented his bout against Dillashaw from taking place as scheduled at UFC 213. The fight was then rescheduled four months later at UFC 217, where Dillashaw beat Garbrandt via second-round TKO to become a two-time bantamweight champion.

Cody Garbrandt still has 'no love' for T.J. Dillashaw

Fight fans had to wait nine months before the second T.J. Dillashaw vs. Cody Garbrandt bout, and they got it at UFC 227 as Dillashaw successfully defended his title via first-round TKO. It was more of the same for T.J., who once again took advantage of Cody's tendency to fight too recklessly and picked up the quick victory. However, Dillashaw was forced to vacate his bantamweight title in 2019 after he tested positive for a banned substance.

With Dillashaw in the middle of a two-year USADA suspension, Garbrandt made some pointed remarks about his longtime rival after he broke a three-fight losing streak by defeating Raphael Assuncao at UFC 250 in June 2020. As quoted by The Score, he told reporters at the post-fight press conference that he'd like to face Dillashaw for a third time, but also suggested that his suspension was long overdue.

"We all know what he was on; we all knew what he was doing. It took so many times for him to skate by USADA, unfortunately," Garbrandt said. "He's serving his sentence, he's gonna always have to live with that the rest of his life. He has a child that has eyes on him that knows that his dad was a cheater."