Those are the words fans of Garbrandt want to hear as he approaches his UFC 250 co-main event against Raphael Assuncao. It’s a spot worthy of his status as a former world champion, even if talk of filling the title vacancy left by the retirement of Henry Cejudo centers on the young guns of the 135-pound weight class: Petr Yan, Aljamain Sterling, Cory Sandhagen.
And there’s the reminder. Sterling is 30. Sandhagen is 28. Yan is 27. Garbrandt? 28. So this isn’t some fighter closing in on his senior years (in fighting terms), over the hill and waiting to get run over by rivals a decade younger. In fact, he may be entering his fighting prime, something overlooked because he reached the top so young.
“I rose to the top really fast and there were things I needed to correct and work on,” he said. “The silver lining in it (the last few years) is that I had to withdraw, step away from fighting a little bit, raise my son, still stay active, still focus on becoming the best fighter that I can become, and I’m full throttle. My foot’s on the gas pedal and I’m not looking back.”
While his foot’s on the gas, his engine needed a little tune-up, so Garbrandt supplemented his training with his longtime squad in Sacramento, Team Alpha Male, by working with another gang of killers, this one in New Jersey led by Mark Henry and Ricardo Almeida.