Cody Garbrandt thinks path to stardom includes boxing against Conor McGregor

With pay-per-view numbers down in 2017 as UFC navigates a sudden shortage of star power, bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt has revealed an ambitious plan that could conceivably elevate him to crossover stardom. 

Garbrandt hasn't fought since convincingly outpointing Dominick Cruz for the 135-pound title last December due to a back injury. But the Ohio native, nicknamed "No Love," makes his first title defense on Nov. 4 in the co-main event of UFC 217 at New York's Madison Square Garden against former champion TJ Dillashaw. 

While the fight against the pound-for-pound rated Dillashaw is far from a cake walk -- and might be more accurately labeled the toughest challenge available at bantamweight -- Garbrandt's plan if victorious only gets more difficult from there. 

During an interview Wednesday with ESPN, Garbrandt reiterated hopes of moving down 10 pounds to flyweight in order to challenge inaugural champion Demetrious Johnson, who two weeks ago became the longest-reigning in company history. 

But immediately after that? 

"I'll go in there and knock Conor [McGregor] the f--- out in boxing," Garbrandt said. "Let's be honest. There's no difference in a southpaw [McGregor's fighting stance] or orthodox. That guy could come out and fight on his hands for all I give a f---. I would knock him out, and that's it."

McGregor (21-3), the UFCs reigning 155-pound champion, hasn't appeared in the Octagon in nearly a full year and is fresh off a TKO loss in his pro boxing debut to Floyd Mayweather in August. 

Garbrandt has some amateur boxing experience of his own and made sure to point out that his goals of making the leap to a second professional sport may go beyond simply fighting another mixed martial artist in a boxing ring. 

"I've got T.J. ahead of me. He's a great adversary to level up on," Garbrandt said. "I'm excited to go in there and take out T.J., and whoever else -- 'Mighty Mouse,' Conor. You can give me top boxers, Adrien Broner, Mikey Garcia. I would love to get in the ring with them."

With McGregor idle, Jon Jones facing another suspension and Ronda Rousey not set to return anytime soon (if ever), UFC is certainly in need of a bright young star. The idea of that being Garbrandt -- with his heavy hands, flashy tattoos and marketable persona -- is something UFC president Dana White agrees with. 

"Our most bankable [future] star?" White told ESPN's "The Dan LeBatard Show" last week. "Nov. 4 at Madison Square Garden, this kid who's the world champion, he's gonna fight. His name is Cody 'No Love.' Very marketable guy. I think Cody 'No Love' could be the next big star."

The fact that Garbrandt shows no fear to the idea of fluctuating his weight -- whether that means cutting to face Johnson or moving up to box McGregor -- speaks of how daring he is to be great.

"I think the fight to make after I demolish T.J. is to go down to 125 pounds and become a two-weight world champion," Garbrandt said. "That would be for my career and my legacy -- and for him too. He needs a big fight.

"Cruz and T.J. can fight for an interim title. I'll go down to 125, and then beat up the winner of that [interim title fight]. That's how I see it playing out."

CBS Sports Insider

Brian Campbell covers MMA, boxing and WWE. The Connecticut native joined CBS Sports in 2017 and has covered combat sports since 2010. He has written and hosted various podcasts and digital shows for ESPN... Full Bio

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