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Cody Gibson punches Brad Katona of Canada in a bantamweight fight during the UFC 292 event at TD Garden on August 19, 2023 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Zuffa LLC)
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The Second Time’s The Charm For Cody Gibson

“The Renegade” Is Looking To Inspire And Entertain, Both Inside And Outside The Octagon

If Cody Gibson had stuck to his original plan, he'd be a retired fighter right now. Instead, he's back in the UFC, and he’s looking to make the most of his second chance on the big stage.

The UFC bantamweight, who had fought four times in the Octagon in a year between February 2014 and February 2015, admitted that he had everything planned out in advance, but a series of events saw him take a different path, and now he’s ready to make a second run in the UFC's 135-pound division.

Chatting to UFC.com ahead of his return at UFC Vegas 89, Gibson explained that he'd mapped out his comeback plan, only for things to go awry and lead to his retirement from the sport.

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"Yeah, I kind of told myself after I was released in the UFC back in 2015, I'm gonna go and try again, back on the regional scene. I'm gonna win out and get back. But if I lose in the process, I'm just gonna be done doing it.

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“I was having my first child at the time. I was a champion for a regional promotion. It was right around the time that Conor McGregor did the double-champ thing. And so, I thought, maybe I can do the same thing on the regional scene to help bring (UFC matchmaker) Sean Shelby back in and get his attention. So I went up a weight class to try to do that, and I lost the fight.

“It wasn't something that was planned, but as soon as the fight ended, I took the mic and was like, 'I’m done fighting, I retire.' And I was serious in my mind.

“I took a year off from the sport, got into teaching full time and coaching high school wrestling, and just started finding myself back in the gym. First, it was just a couple days of jiu-jitsu a week, and then, all of a sudden, I was back into boxing and, before I knew it, I was training almost every day.

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"I was like, 'Well, if I'm going to train every day, I might as well get back into it.' So (I’d had) about a year off and then I came back. I didn't want to be that cautionary tale of another guy who retired and came back but here I am!”

Gibson returned to the cage, competing for promotions including Tachi Palace Fights, LFA, and XMMA, and eventually got the call to compete on Season 31 of The Ultimate Fighter, which featured a team of former UFC fighters going against a team of promotional newcomers. As part of the veterans team led by UFC lightweight contender Michael Chandler, Gibson picked up back-to-back first-round finishes to earn a place in the finale against former TUF winner Brad Katona, who had switched teams ahead of the finale at UFC 292 in Boston.

Cody Gibson punches Brad Katona of Canada in a bantamweight fight during the UFC 292 event at TD Garden on August 19, 2023 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Zuffa LLC Cody Gibson punches Brad Katona of Canada in a bantamweight fight during the UFC 292 event at TD Garden on August 19, 2023 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Zuffa LLC)
Cody Gibson punches Brad Katona of Canada in a bantamweight fight during the UFC 292 event at TD Garden on August 19, 2023 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Zuffa LLC Cody Gibson punches Brad Katona of Canada in a bantamweight fight during

That bout delivered one of the best TUF finale bouts we’ve seen since that iconic TUF 1 bout between Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar, as Gibson and Katona went back and forth in a thrilling three-round war. When the final scorecards were tallied, Katona’s hand was raised, and Gibson was left wondering what was next as he was transported to the hospital. The sting of defeat was eased a little with news that Gibson had won a Fight of the Night bonus. Then came additional, life-changing, news as he learned that Dana White revealed that he had decided to give both men UFC contracts.

“Yeah, it was a pretty wild night. Obviously, the fight was pretty crazy. I'm proud of that,” Gibson recalled.

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“I came back to the UFC with a goal that every single time I fight, when the people that are in the arena drive home, they're talking about my fight, whether I was the first fight of the night or the main event. I think we accomplished that on that night, and I plan on accomplishing it again this Saturday.

“I was in the hospital in Boston for several hours after the fight and just kind of sitting on my phone waiting for doctors and stuff like that. And you started seeing not only the fan reaction and support, but then the bonus news came out. And then Dana, in the press conference, said, 'We're going to keep Gibson, as well'.

“So it was a rollercoaster, because I don't usually take losses very well. It's usually a couple weeks of processing for me in trying to regroup and think about where I'm going next and what my next move is. So it was just kind of a wild night, with a lot of lows and a lot of highs.”

Cody Gibson punches Johnny Bedford in their bantamweight bout at the AT&T Center on June 28, 2014 in San Antonio, Texas. (Photo by Ed Mulholland/Zuffa LLC)
Cody Gibson punches Johnny Bedford in their bantamweight bout at the AT&T Center on June 28, 2014 in San Antonio, Texas. (Photo by Ed Mulholland/Zuffa LLC)

Gibson is rightly proud of the fighting style that earned him a second shot in the UFC, and he explained that his all-action principles were galvanized after spending time with fellow crowd-pleaser Chandler on The Ultimate Fighter.

“One of the things I learned from Michael Chandler on the show was he famously said, 'I’m here for a good time, not a long time,' and every fight he's in, and essentially every fight he's had in the UFC, has been bananas. And so I kind of take that same approach,” he explained.

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“You still have strategy, and you want to utilize your strengths and exploit weaknesses, and all those sorts of things. But, at the end of the day, we are entertainers. Yes, we’re competitors, and competing and winning is vital, but we're here to entertain, and that's what I'm here to do.

“So I took that from him and I’m just kind of rolling with it. And I think that (the UFC re-signing me) is an endorsement of, 'We’ve got to have this guy back, because when he fights, people want to tune in.'“

The first fight of Gibson’s second UFC run will see him face Miles Johns at UFC Vegas 89. Gibson was originally set to face Davey Grant, but an injury to the Englishman forced him out. Now Gibson has a fresh challenge ahead of him at the UFC APEX this weekend.

Cody Gibson punches Brad Katona of Canada in a bantamweight fight during the UFC 292 event at TD Garden on August 19, 2023 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Zuffa LLC)
Cody Gibson punches Brad Katona of Canada in a bantamweight fight during the UFC 292 event at TD Garden on August 19, 2023 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Zuffa LLC)

"I was excited to fight Davey,” he admitted.

“Unfortunately, he had a neck injury, and I reached out to him and wished him well in recovery. Maybe we could run that one back, because that would be a fun fight. We were both really looking forward to it. I think we both knew our styles were going to make for a fun fight.

“But in steps Miles Johns. I appreciate him for taking the fight on two, two-and-a-half weeks’ notice. Very dangerous guy, obviously has some performance bonuses with knockouts. Throws a big right hand, some solid wrestling. So yeah, you watch film on a guy for 10 weeks, and then, all of a sudden, you’ve got a new opponent. So the last couple of weeks have been exciting because I've had new film to watch, new strategies to go over with my coaches, and we're ready.

“Miles is a really talented fighter, but he's a little bit less dynamic than Davey, as far as his weapons (are concerned) so we were able to formulate a game plan pretty quickly and we feel confident about it. Now we're ready to go push the pace and try to break the punch count record once again.”

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The opportunity to return for a second chance in the UFC Octagon is more than enough to fill a fighter’s mind, but Gibson’s life away from the cage is every bit as busy, as he juggles life as a middle school PE teacher with his training to compete at the highest level of MMA.

“I’m in the gym for a couple hours early in the morning, and then I go and do my job and try to make a difference in kids’ lives. And then I go and spend two or three more hours in the gym after work,” he explained.

“I think it does impact my recovery a little bit, you know, my lack of recovery, but that’s OK, because I love what I do, both in the cage and in the classroom. I really wouldn't have it any other way.

“And yeah, it’s crazy, I know, for a lot of people on the outside looking in. But they call me 'The Renegade' for a reason. I do things my own way – always have. And it works for me and my family, at least for now. So we're going to continue on that path.”

And things are about to get even busier in the Gibson household, with the imminent arrival of child number three – his first son – due any day now. With a fulfilling career as a teacher, a growing family, and the second chance of a UFC career, Cody Gibson certainly has a lot on his plate, but he's excited for the future.

For “The Renegade,” this second chance at the big time represents the chance to not just compete again, but to set an example and leave a lasting legacy for his family.

“I think at the end of the day, when it's all said and done, if that's my story – a guy that was resilient, that fell down several times in his career and always got back up – I'll be happy. That's the story I want to I want to leave to my children, because I think that's a story we can all relate to.

“We all deal with obstacles and things in our lives that we have to overcome. So, for me, I think it's a testament of that. And now I'm just looking to make the most of the opportunity. I didn't fight and claw my way back to the UFC to just be here for a little while – I came back to win fights, to win bonuses, and to change my life and my family's life. So now it's about cashing in the chips.”

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