By Damon Martin
Cody Garbrandt set the internet on fire on Wednesday when he released a photo on Twitter with the caption "UFC 217 Madison Square Garden vs. T.J. Dillashaw."
Immediately afterward, numerous outlets began reporting that Garbrandt was confirming his fight with Dillashaw was set for the November 4 card in New York City.
As it turns out, Garbrandt absolutely wants on the UFC 217 card -- but it seems the UFC may have other plans for the bantamweight champion.
"I want this more than anything," Garbrandt told FloCombat when asked about his return date. "I'm the champ -- undisputed and undefeated -- and I'm just getting started. I can't wait to get back in there. Whatever happens, I'm going to campaign to get on November 4 and hopefully that's what I get and that's what the fans get.
"That's why I went to Twitter, I went to the fans. Let's be heard that we deserve this shot at Madison Square Garden."
Garbrandt was originally expected to return in July to defend his title at UFC 213, but a back injury not only forced him out of the fight with Dillashaw but also put him into rehabilitation that is still ongoing as he looks forward to his return.
Following that injury, Garbrandt underwent several different treatments, which included a trip to Germany set up by UFC President Dana White to receive the same kind of procedure that helped former New York Yankees' slugger Alex Rodriguez return to action from a knee injury much sooner than expected back in 2011.
Garbrandt had nothing but praise for how the UFC has helped him recover from the injury, but there was also virtually no way he was going to be ready in time to fight in July, much less any sooner than November, due to the severity of the pain he was feeling in his back.
"I've had three procedures since I fought Dominick [Cruz]," Garbrandt said. "That was a year of keeping busy, the UFC got me the fights, and I'm super thankful for the opportunities that they gave me but it came at a cost. If I start [training] at the beginning of September, that gives me an eight-week fight camp. I think I'm worthy of that as a champion. I've done everything they've told me to do. Sorry, I got hurt chasing a dream. I'm sorry that happened. They were trying to get me to fight sooner -- even before we knew Madison Square Garden was happening, but that's what we've been in talks with this entire time."
The reality is Garbrandt just wants to be healthy before facing a challenge like Dillashaw in his first title defense. There's undoubtedly bad blood between the former teammates, and Garbrandt knows he needs to be at his best to face Dillashaw, just like he hopes the former bantamweight champion would want in return.
There were rumors that the promotion wanted Garbrandt and Dillashaw to fight at the upcoming UFC 216 card October 7, but the Ohio native just won't be ready in time to compete on that card considering his full slate of MMA training can't begin before September.
That would give him just about four weeks to prepare for a five-round battle against a former champion in Dillashaw, and Garbrandt knows he wouldn't be at his best if he pushed himself to fight as early as October 7.
"I do feel like they were trying to pressure me into fighting sooner," Garbrandt said. "I know my body. I've grinded my entire life. I don't know how to do anything else. It's not something where I got to be a champion and I'm just content to be here. No, I'm working hard every day, but it takes the fun out of it when you're constantly hurt. You're always going to be hurt, but being hurt and being injured are two different things. I know my body.
"I want to be 100 percent when I go in there and fight T.J. I deserve that as the champion, and the fans deserve that. I want T.J. at his best. I want him to be 100-percent. T.J. should want me at my best so we can challenge each other. That's where I'm at with it. We want November, but they're telling me December or January."
Garbrandt can't say for certain what will happen next, but he's still holding out hope that he'll have the opportunity to return at UFC 217 in November.
That's why his message on Twitter was the ultimate act of visualization combined with promotion. UFC 217 is where Garbrandt wants to defend his title, and judging by the reaction he received from that message, plenty of fans want to see it, too.
"We've been in contact, [my manager] Ali [Abdelaziz] has been telling me his talks from them that I'm healthy and ready to fight in November," Garbrandt said. "That's what all my [physical therapists] and coaches have been gearing up for, getting my body ready to start fight camp in September and we're fighting in November. That's what we've been coordinating with the doctors through the UFC. I don't know what's going on with that, why I'm not put on there.
"That's a huge fight between me and T.J. [Dillashaw] at Madison Square Garden."