Brian “The Bandit” Cobb has been robbed of more than two years of his fighting career.

At 35 years old, one might assume that sort of extended layoff combined with Cobb’s vast interests outside of the cage would lead him to hanging up his gloves for good. Instead, Cobb is viewing his next outing as a coming out party, a rejuvenation of his career, and a huge opportunity.

Cobb returns to the cage at WSOF 25 as part of the organization’s one-night, eight-man tournament to determine the next challenger for lightweight title-holder Justin Gathje. The event goes down this Friday night in Phoenix.

“I have been gone for two years and people have forgotten about me,” stated Cobb. “But it will dictate the path that the rest of my career takes. Retirement is not on my mind. Getting a title shot and winning three fights back-to-back-to-back is the only focus right now. I think I am very worthy of a title shot and I’m very much in the mix right now.”

A successful run through the tournament would bring about a rematch for Cobb against Gathje. The pair met in June 2013 with a close bout coming to a crashing conclusion midway through the third round as Cobb was felled by a TKO via leg kicks. The severity of the damage put Cobb on a surgeon’s table followed by an arduous rehab. A subsequent hand injury extended his layoff.

As if the long hiatus wasn’t enough of a factor, Cobb comes back to action potentially facing the grueling uphill battle of three fights in a single outing. Tournaments are often polarizing topics in the MMA world, but Cobb, who declared his knee good to go, is all for it.

“I think the idea is great. It’s not just a question of whether you can win, but can you tape up a small injury and get back out there and perform?” he said. “Getting in and out of the cage injury-free will be crucial to advancing. I love that I have the potential of fighting three times in one night, collecting three paychecks, and only having to weigh-in one time.”

In the night’s quarter-final round, Cobb has been paired with former TUF finalist Mike Ricci, who has picked up wins over worn-out, aging competitors Jorge Gurgel and George Sotiropoulos since being cut by the UFC. Of Cobb’s 20 wins, 12 have come via submission so he’ll certainly be looking to get out of the fight quickly with a tidy tapout victory in order to get settled into preparation for the fast-approaching next bout.

“Mike is an incredible athlete,” said Cobb. “I have seen him compete a number of times. He is really long and rangy just like myself. He is dangerous everywhere. Obviously, I am a wrestler and there are no elbows allowed in the quarters or semis. I just want to pressure him and stay inside.

“(After winning the first fight) the most important thing will be to calm down, keep my head about me, and pay attention to the game plan for the next opponent. My coaches will be tracking the tournament and help me prep for the following matchup.”

Cobb knows a thing or two about good coaching.

He coaches wrestling in his hometown at California State University-Bakersfield and teaches at Garces High School, too. When he’s not guiding the future of young minds, he’s getting himself prepared for battle. And with the rest of the hours in the day, Cobb is a devoted husband and father as well as an entrepreneur as owner of Sports & Spirits Bar.

It’s a hectic schedule, but Cobb wouldn’t have it any other way.

“Life is good. I have a lot on my plate but ‘no pressure, no diamonds,’” he said. “The very rigid structure forces a perfect training camp for me. I know exactly what I am doing at what time on which day. It makes my schedule very easy. I just look at where I have to be and I go.

“I’m currently training with my old MMA coach Josh Allen for all my strength and conditioning. He just knows me better than anyone. He knows how to get me in the best shape and have me the most prepared for any situation. I am sparring and grappling at Erin Nolan’s Xtreme Training Center and I am also still wrestling daily at CSUB. Our season just got under way and it is always great to get in that room and battle with some of these young guys who preparing for the NCAA national championship. So every day I am getting in a mix of wrestling, striking, grappling, and conditioning.”

Should Cobb come through the eight-man tournament unscathed with his hand raised three times, he’ll get his much-awaited second shot against Gathje. The reigning WSOF champ along with highly regarded veteran and former MFC champion Antonio McKee are the only two fighters who have beaten Cobb since 2010. Cobb believes it’s time to shine and the fact that he has one-night tournament experience coming from a successful two-win performance at Gladiator Challenge 64 in 2007 will help him get back to the title spotlight.

“I just think it’s a matter of time. Getting back to a belt is all about staying the course,” Cobb noted. “Keep grinding away at the things I’ve done mixed in with opportunities like this tournament and a little bit of luck always helps.

“I think the way to beat Gathje is to continue doing what I was doing in the previous fight – stay in range and frustrate him, check his kicks, and win the grappling exchanges.”

About The Author

Scott Zerr
Staff Writer

Scott joins The MMA Corner having spent the last 14 years in mixed martial arts as Director of Media & Fighter Relations for the Maximum Fighting Championship. He will provide The MMA Corner with insight on breaking news in the sport, plus an insider's perspective on business developments, matchmaking, fighter signings, and much more. In addition to his longtime work in MMA, Scott was a sports reporter before moving into media relations and marketing. After growing up and working in Edmonton, Alberta, Scott has since moved to Bakersfield, California to be with his wife Christina (an avid fight fan, thank goodness) and kids.