Once, Cody almost sliced off his brother’s finger with a knife. On another occasion, his brother punched his ear so hard, it swelled and became a “cauliflower ear.” Another time, they took their squabble outside city limits where they wailed on each other for 45 minutes. This is how Cody Garbrandt became an MMA champion.
But he almost lost a battle with depression until the same brother intervened.
“I almost hung myself,” Cody says on an I am Second video. “He busted down the door and came in and saved my life. He gave me the biggest hug and sat there with me and cried with me. He said everything was going to be all right. That day was a changing point for me in my life. That brought us even closer, you know, attending church together.”
Cody grew up in the Appalachian mountains of Ohio in small towns where people are as proud of their hometowns as they are poor in the economically depressed areas of Uhrichsville and Denison.
Fighting is a way of life there — especially for the Garbrandt family.
“From both sides of my family, we were fighters.” Cody says. “We had a last name to uphold. Oh you’re from Garbrandt clan or the Mease clan. You don’t mess with those guys.”
He watched his uncle fight, while his grandfather, drunk in the stands, fought with a spectator.
With his brother Zach Garbrandt
“We’d just be sitting there watching it,” he remembers. “That was normal for us.”
Since fighting was “normal,” Cody and his brother Zach made grappling a normal part of sibling rivalries.
“Out of the womb, I was fighting over the bottle,” Cody jokes. “Zach was my fierce competitor. My brother was always bigger, stronger, faster, meaner than me growing up, so that’s why I was always quick to fight: I had something to prove.
“Me and Zach, we fought so many times in our lives. We had some pretty violent fights.”
Once when Zach provoked him to punch him, Cody grabbed a knife in the sink and slashed him, nearly cutting off his middle finger.
“I remember he looked at me, wrapped his finger in a paper towel, punched the stove and shattered the whole glass stove and went back to bed,” Cody remembers.
In their last fight, Cody was 17; Zach, 18.
“We ended up fighting over a Subway sandwich,” he recalls.
After Grandma intervened to stop, the brothers jumped in their cars and drove to “the pump house.”
“That’s where we would take out-of-towners to fight,” he says. “We would take them out of city limits where cops wouldn’t go.”
The fight lasted 45 minutes.
“It was always a knock-out, drag-out fight with Zach,” he says. The fights were so fierce it was possible someone might die.
“My knuckles were all cut up, my lip was bloodied, my teeth were all busted up,” he says. “I hit with a right-handed, overhand right. He had the stanky legs like he was walking in potholes. He looked at me with this crazed look, like, ‘Alright, awesome. Cody finally hit me with a nice shot that hurt me.” Read the rest: Cody Garbrandt’s toughest fight.