There is definitely a short list when it comes to talking about the best teams in MMA. Teams like Jackson’s MMA, American Top Team and the Blackzilians are certainly among those at the top of that list. However, when you ask someone to name the best gym for lighter-weight fighters, the answer is simple: Team Alpha Male.

The Sacramento, Calif., based team has turned out stars like Urijah Faber, Chad Mendes, Joseph Benavidez and T.J. Dillashaw. The next significant name to emerge at bantamweight for Alpha Male could be fighting this weekend. No, I’m not talking about Dillashaw or Chris Holdsworth, both of whom fight at UFC 173. I am referring to a man who has been training in combat sports for his entire life and will step in the cage for Pinnacle Fighting Championships in Pittsburgh on Saturday. That man’s name is Cody Garbrandt.

Garbrandt (Christopher Nolan/MetCon Photos, LLC)

Garbrandt (Christopher Nolan/MetCon Photos, LLC)

Garbrandt comes from a family of fighters, and he was wrestling from almost infancy. When the Ohio native recently turned pro in his chosen sport of MMA, he knew what camp would be right for him.

“I chose Alpha Male primarily because it is the best camp in the world for lighter weight guys,” Garbrandt admitted to The MMA Corner.

Garbrandt went out to California because Team Alpha Male’s base—wrestling—was the same as his own base. Garbrandt had connections through a member of the camp, World Series of Fighting featherweight Lance Palmer. Garbrandt recently made the move to Northern California, and he now splits time between the West Coast and Pittsburgh. He admits to being a different fighter since making the move to Alpha Male, but it isn’t necessarily in the way you would think.

“I’ve become a much stronger fighter mentally,” Garbrandt explained. “A lot of the fighters out here are very mentally strong, and we grind through three practices a day.”

Garbrandt even pointed specifically to his striking game as something that has evolved since being at Alpha Male. That is an area where the entire team has really improved under the tutelage of Duane Ludwig, who has served as the camp’s head coach since late 2012. Now, Ludwig is leaving the team to move back to Colorado and open up his own gym. Garbrandt admits that the team will miss “Coach Bang,” but it has been business as usual back at the gym.

“Nothing really has changed,” Garbrandt said. “We brought Martin Kampmann in for a few days, and that was great.”

Kampmann isn’t officially the new coach of Team Alpha Male just yet, but Garbrandt did say that “The Hitman” will have a regular presence in their gym over the summer to help Faber train for his fight against Alex Caceres. Ludwig’s last day as coach of the team is this Saturday, and he will look to end his tenure on a high note when he corners Dillashaw for his UFC title fight against Renan Barao.

That is a huge moment for the entire team, but is something that has a bit of a downside for Garbrandt. Ludwig and the other main coaches from Alpha Male will be in Las Vegas for UFC 173 cornering Dillashaw and Holdsworth. Garbrandt would love to have some of those guys with him, but he is confident in the core group of men that will be in his corner in Pittsburgh.

“I’ll have my uncle with me, who has been my boxing coach since I was a teenager.” Garbrandt said.

Garbrandt’s uncle is a big part of his history as a fighter, and even lends to his pedigree a bit. Garbrandt’s uncle was an Olympic alternate in boxing, his grandfather was also a boxer and his great grandfather was a world champion. Gabrandt credits his uncle for giving him a great foundation and teaching him good fundamentals with a no-nonsense approach.

“He is an old-school guy, so he has an old-school way of training us,” Garbrandt explained. “There is a lot of new sports-science stuff out there, but with him it is jump rope, shadow box, bag work, mitt work and spar.”

With all of this family history in boxing, one might wonder why Garbrandt has chosen to go the path of mixed martial arts. Garbrandt is open about boxing being his first love, and he even dabbled in amateur boxing at the young age of 14. Garbrandt even admits that if the money were right, pro boxing would be something he would look into in the future. For now, though, his focus is on MMA.

“I love the evolution of MMA,” he said. “You are always learning something new. You have to work wrestling, jiu-jitsu and boxing. You just have so many more tools to use.”

Garbrandt certainly has all of the tools to be successful in MMA. Boxing and wrestling are arguably the two best foundations to have when building the ideal fighter. Garbrandt may have ties to boxing, but his wrestling background is even more impressive. He won the state title in high school wrestling as a freshman. He followed that up by finishing state runner-up as a sophomore. Garbrandt didn’t finish at the top of the heap as a junior or senior, but that is something that motivates him to this day.

“I didn’t finish the way that I should’ve. That’s why I’m so driven to be the best martial artist that I can be,” Garbrandt explained. “I’m driven to have that success so I don’t have that black cloud over me in MMA.”

Garbrandt has always been some sort of a prodigy. He had early success in boxing and wrestling. Now, he is undefeated through three professional MMA bouts, and he already has a lot of hype surrounding him. However, he is in no hurry to jump into the UFC.

“I’m not going to rush it,” Garbrandt said. “I’m taking it one fight at a time, and I’ll know when the time is right.”

The Ultimate Fighter is one option that could be in the future for Garbrandt. His Alpha Male teammates Dillashaw and Holdsworth were cast members on the reality series, and it exponentially advanced their careers.

“Me and Faber have talked about me going out for The Ultimate Fighter next time,” Garbrandt revealed. “I’m interested, and I’d definitely be a character on that show.”

Garbrandt (Christopher Nolan/MetCon Photos, LLC)

Garbrandt (Christopher Nolan/MetCon Photos, LLC)

That talk will have to wait until after Saturday. At Pinnacle FC’s Pittsburgh Challenge Series 7, Garbrandt will step inside the cage with James Porter. The two will vie for the promotion’s inaugural bantamweight title in the main event of the night’s card, which airs live via pay-per-view stream on Porter, who holds a 5-2 mark as a pro, is much more experienced than Garbrandt. The 21-year-old has been in there with big names like Sergio Pettis and Carson Beebe.

“People keep bringing that up—that he’s fought some big-name opponents,” Garbrandt said. “But, he didn’t compete with them and he got finished by both of them.”

Those two big names are the only two losses in Porter’s career. However, on Saturday, Garbrandt will look to add a third loss to Porter’s record and enter a small fraternity with Pettis and Beebe.

“I want to beat him up,” Garbrandt declared. “I’m going to break him down and then I’m going to finish him.”

Team Alpha Male has churned out a lot of world-class fighters. Only time will tell if Garbrandt will be one of those men, but his path continues Saturday night.

Cody would like to thank all of his teammates at Team Alpha Male and Fight Club Pittsburgh. He would also like to thank his management company, MMA Inc., and all of his family, friends and fans who support him. Finally, Garbrandt would like to thank all of his sponsors: Cage Fighter, Torque, Top of the Line Barber Shop, Browns Heating and Cooling, Simon Life Insurance, Heavy Hand Tattoo, The Memory Tag and Qdoba. Follow Garbrandt on Twitter: @Cody_Nolove

About The Author

Trey Downey
Staff Writer

A Central Florida native, Trey Downey's interest in MMA came after a trip to Blockbuster and the rental of UFC 47 on VHS. He has been blogging about the sport since 2011 and hosted a podcast called The TD Experience focusing on football and MMA (touchdowns and takedowns). Trey studied radio and television at the University of Central Florida and will soon be attending the Connecticut School of Broadcasting. Trey enjoys watching sports, pro wrestling and is an avid runner.