It looks like Garbrandt and Cruz are developing some real, lasting heat for a potential UFC title bout down the road. The two men saw each other back stage at UFC 202, as Garbrandt was entering the arena to get ready for his PPV bout with Takeya Mizugaki. And it looks like just catching sight of the current bantamweight champ was enough to get Garbrandt in a confrontational mood. He spoke about the incident at his post-fight media scrum to the assembled press:
"You know what, I saw him walking in when we were coming to the arena," Garbrandt revealed. "We walked by and he said 'What's up, dude!?' I'm like, 'Don't 'what's up, dude' me.' He's talking all this shit in the media, and I'm focused on the fight. You're not going to get me mentally, emotionally away from the task at hand and that's being a world champion. And that just adds fuel to the fire and just let him know that Takeya's next, by default, and then I'm going to do the same to him.
"You know what it was?" Garbrandt posited. "I just let him know that I'm here. I'm in his head. You can say whatever you want. I grew up without a father for a little bit and, you know, he wanted to say I had some daddy issues. I was very blessed to have a mother that was so strong. And then when I was adopted I had some great step-dads. He was trying to get in the media and say that and give a backhanded comment about 'daddy issues.' Which is fine. A lot of us in America come from broken families and I took it to the heart. It pissed me off. He should have probably just kept quiet, because now it's... He's woke up a beast and I'm gonna come and knock him out."
Cruz gave his own insight into the event from his seat behind the Fox Sports media desk, where he recounted what he said and (perhaps ungenerously) paraphrased Garbrandt's own statements.
"I mean, it wasn't anything crazy," Cruz admitted. "It was just an exchange of words and understanding and looking each other in the eye and understand, 'We're going to see each other very soon, my friend.' And DC got in there and felt us out and said, 'Maybe I should separate you guys. I don't need you guys hitting each other on this concrete.' But it pretty much came down to, 'I didn't like what you said about me on some of these interviews, Dom. It hurt my feelings,' basically is the way he said it to me. He didn't say those exact words, but he might as well have. It was in his eyes, they were getting teary and stuff. And I was like, 'Sorry, man. I'm gonna have to embarrass you in front of a lot of people. So, get it together, control your emotions. And lets do this.'"
Maybe the most honest, but not particularly descriptive view of the run in came from Garbrandt's own head coach, Justin Buchholz. Buchholz spoke to Sub Radio about the incident and why the Team Alpha Male staff try to keep a short leash on Garbrandt whenever they can:
"So, we're checking in," Buchholz said, "we're walking through the security and they have metal detectors and stuff... T-Mobile Arena is very secure. And Cody walks right through with his suit, they don't even say anything to him, they stop all of us and start checking our bags. And I'm like 'God damn it, Danny! Grab Cody, he's going after Cruz!' That's the main thing, why we have to have a squad with Cody, to keep him from attacking the other guys at 135 lbs."
Could Garbrandt/Cruz get its own place on the Mount Rushmore of recent MMA beef, alongside Jones/Cormier, Diaz/McGregor, Joanna/Claudia, and Rousey/Tate? Only time and a couple of fights will tell.