There are more than a few people who believe Cody Garbrandt could be the future of the 135-pound division. Among them is one of his coaches, who happens to think the Ohio native has all the makings of a UFC champion.
Brandon Gibson, one of the head striking coaches at Jackson-Winkeljohn in New Mexico, met Garbrandt in passing a couple of years ago and the friendship eventually transitioned to teacher-student.
The duo's latest chance to put their teamwork to the test comes this weekend, when Garbrandt faces Augusto Mendes on Sunday night on UFC Fight Night on FS1.
Not every fighter is made to work with a coach, no matter how great each of them might be at their chosen craft, but Gibson and Garbrandt found a rhythm almost immediately and they've been working together ever since.
"I was fortunate enough to meet Cody a couple of years ago at a World Series of Fighting event that Lance Palmer was on and one of my other young prospects was on that card. Cody and I just kind of hit it off talking about tattoos and everything else and then over social media and we had the opportunity about a year ago at a UFC event to get together and work out and I get to hold pads for a lot of UFC fighters. Each fighter kind of has their own rhythm and style, but I could tell right away that Cody and I had really good chemistry," Gibson recently told FOX Sports.
"Cody's striking is so good. Between his uncle Robert and the guys at Team Alpha Male, Cody is such an outstanding, well-rounded mixed martial artist. I think stylistically we share a lot of the same views."
Garbrandt spends most of his time training in Sacramento with TAM, the team founded by bantamweight contender Urijah Faber, but working with Gibson gave him yet another weapon to get ready for his UFC fights.
He even traveled to Albuquerque, where was he prepared for his upcoming fight in Pittsburgh. Garbrandt was so impressive, he even earned the notice of arguably the best pound for pound fighter in the sport, Jon Jones.
"Jon sees the potential in Cody as well," Gibson said. "Jon sent him a tweet while he was in town saying how impressed he was with his style and the way he moved and the guys he went with like John Dodson were all really impressed, too. The guys at Alpha Male have been really welcoming to me as well."
Another clue that Gibson sees something special in Garbrandt is the fact that he was willing to travel from New Mexico to California to work with the rising UFC star.
Gibson has an entire team and family back home in New Mexico, but he knew working with a fighter like Garbrandt was worth the travel and the sacrifice to give back to him as he prepared for his upcoming fight.
"I know it meant a lot for him to come out here and spend some time and I went out to Sacramento a few times," Gibson said. "I'm a Jackson-Winkeljohn coach, but Cody is the one guy outside of our team that I'm really building a bond with that I want to be part of his career. It's not just on the sports side, it's Cody as a person."
Currently, Garbrandt is 2-0 in his UFC career and he was poised for his first chance to crack the bantamweight top 15 this weekend but unfortunately his original opponent John Lineker came down with a case of Dengue fever and it forced him out of their fight.
Instead, Garbrandt will face Mendes, the Brazilian jiu-jitsu stylist. But the stage is still set for an impressive showing and a chance for him to take one step closer to getting a shot against the best bantamweights in the world.
Garbrandt is still very young in his UFC career, but Gibson sees a bright future ahead for his latest pupil -- and says there is no reason why Garbrandt can't be a champion one day.
"Absolutely," Gibson said of Garbrandt champion potential. "I've been fortunate enough to work with several former and current UFC champions and I know it's a lot more than just the technical approach to the game. Those things outside the technical aspects of the game, I see those in Cody, as well. I see his work ethic, I see his drive, I see his determination. Skill and technique can be taught, but the things that Cody has can't really be taught and those are usually the qualities that make champions.
"I see that in Cody and I know it's just a matter of time for him to develop and find the right matchups and I do see that in Cody where in the next couple of years he can be a UFC world champion."