Welcome to the UFC Cody Durden. Exclusive conversation w/ Dan Levi

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I got the chance to catch up with UFC newcomer Cody Durden after his impressive UFC debut as a massive underdog versus Chris Gutierrez which ended in a unanimous draw. We talked about his experience in the big show, what the UFC Performance Institute is like, his reaction to getting the UFC call only a few days removed from his last regional fight, and much more!

Half the Battle featuring Cody Durden

On being a massive underdog versus Chris Gutierrez, who is universally considered to be the hardest kicker in the bantamweight division besides Marlon Moraes:

“I just told myself, it is what it is, and you just gotta get in there and give it your best. Especially when all the odds are not in your favor. And that’s exactly what I did. I’ve fought and trained with some of the best guys in the world. And I kept telling y’all, I know where I stand. Obviously, I didn’t get the result I wanted.. but, man, if you’re still counting me out, then you need to take a step back and realize that I can hang with the best of them.”

Exactly how hard does Chris Gutierrez kick?

“Man.. my leg was on fire. I still was able to walk. I didn’t tear anything. I had an MRI done and I had a contusion on my knee. I’m back training. I don’t know how the (expletive) that dude kicks so hard, but dude he’s got a hell of a kick. Even when he was landing with his toes, barely landing on my shin when I was pulling them back, that mother (expletive) burned like hell, you know? Even when I was checking the kicks, he’s got a hell of a kick on him. I was still feeling the kick.”

The UFC experience reinforced his mindset to keep leveling up:

“Even though I didn’t lose this fight or win this fight, I still took something from it. And that’s what I needed, man. I needed to take something from these fights. And that’s what you do every time you fight, man. You gotta take something. This whole last week I started working on it. That’s how we’re gonna improve. Work on my weaknesses.  I just went to Helix, down the street, and did some no-gi tonight for an hour and a half straight. Still training, gotta improve, and gotta level up.” 

The next fight & looking up to Justin Gaethje:

“I don’t really know when my next fight is right now. I have talked to my management. We’re looking to go to 125 for the next fight. If it happens, if Mick allows it, then cool. If not, then it’ll be 135. I’m hoping to get in there in October or November. It’d be an honor to fight October 24th on the Justin Gaethje card. That would be awesome, because I really look up to that guy.”

Making 125 lbs with the help of the UFC Performance Institute:

“Working with Trifecta and Clint with the UFC.. dude, there’s no doubt about it. I ate 4 meals on Thursday and woke up a pound over. I sat in the damn sauna for ten minutes and was like ‘wow.’ They have a plan for me, and we talked about 125. And he’s like ‘yeah bro, you’re a 125’er, you got a 125 body. I work with all these athletes, I know what they weigh, and you’re the exact same as a 125’er. Let’s make it happen’ and that’s what we’re gonna do.”

2020 was not the year of the prospect

Recovering from the flyweight cut with the help of the UFC nutritionists, Trifecta:

“I haven’t done it in like over a year. So, we’ll see. I don’t really know yet. I’ll let you know. But working with Trifecta, having your meals there, on time, they let you know what to eat, what you need to weigh, how much you need to drink. It doesn’t get any better than that. Hopefully everything goes well” 

What the UFC Performance Institute is like:

“Man they have everything. I get massages, the chiropractor, recovery methods, anything. They have every machine. It’s insane. What they’ll do is the strength and conditioning research on you. And they’ll see how you compare with the rest of the division. Whether that’s flyweight or bantamweight. They might see how much my max bench press is, or how fast I run the 40. All these tests take about a week. They even let you know if your body is burning fats first, or carbs first. It’s all a science. That’s something I’m really interested in knowing more about. The body. And more specifically, my body, and how it works. And where I need to improve. And if I even need to go to 125. So, we’ll find out. Me and Dhiego (Lima) and Tony Martin are gonna go down for a week in the next few months and get the tests done.”

On the UFC Performance Institute recovery tools:

“Man they got all kinds of machines. This building is bigger than WalMart. I even heard it had an altitude room where you can train in altitude. It’s just insane. And they treat you so well, I mean, how often can you just walk into a gym and say you want a deep tissue massage for an hour? You don’t have to pay for it. It was earned. But you don’t have to pay for it. It’s freaking insane.” 

Going from regional scene to UFC in a span of two weeks:

“It was so exciting. I was so excited. To know that I’m 29 years old, and everything I’ve done since I was 23. I’ve sacrificed so much for this and people don’t even know the half of it. And I’d like to tell that story one day. I quit a job making $75,000 a year and I quit it and got a less paying job just so I could train more. I moved my family an hour from where we were. We sold our house and moved here just for the gym.”

On the sacrifices needed for achieving a dream:

“I remember one time I had a fight lined up in 2016, and I was so dedicated and so selfish that I missed my wife’s birthday dinner, because I had to practice, because I didn’t wanna lose. I do regret that. But it’s something that I felt I needed to do at the time. Even though it was wrong and I do still regret that. I missed her birthday dinner with all her family, and my family was there. And they’re like ‘where’s Cody? Oh, he’s training.’  And I never go to any of my friends’ kids birthday parties on Saturday’s because I always feel like “I’m sorry, I gotta train.” So the sacrifices i’ve made, and everything that led up to it, finally paid off for me. Those are just small stories of what I’ve sacrificed.”

What happened in rounds 2 & 3 vs Chris Gutierrez after a dominant, 10-8 first round?

“I held him in a body triangle, my legs around him, for 4 and a half minutes. You couldn’t see it because it went to a commercial break, but when I stood up, I kinda stumbled twice, and then I noticed and said ‘oh shit, my legs are fatigued’ and that’s a little insight. I knew my legs were fatigued. And I sat on the stool was like ‘oh shit, how am I gonna be able to avoid these leg kicks now, my legs are fatigued’ and then I took him down.. you gotta be very specific. I took him down in the first round with a single leg to a double leg. And then the next two shots I took in the 2nd round were double legs. So why the (expletive) would I go back to the easiest one to defend? Which is a double leg, that’s the first thing you learn when you start wrestling, is how to defend a double leg, when you’re talking defense. I shot two double legs when I should’ve went back to the single leg. I didn’t know I won the first round 10-8. I was thinking ‘okay, one to zero.’ That’s what I told myself. But I have to be more specific like that. I should’ve been thinking ’10-8, okay, pull back some, circle around, make him chase you a little bit, and then start to work again.’ But you live, you learn, you make adjustments, and you come back stronger.”

On the fight versus Gutierrez being scored a draw:

“I don’t know if I did enough to win the fight, cause the 2nd and 3rd rounds were close. I believe it was the right call with the draw. I think if I would have stayed on top the last 40 seconds when I took him down and landed some strikes (in round 2), that I would’ve won that fight. Instead, I got caught in an armbar and had to get out of the armbar, and that’s what made him win that round.” 

Was Chris Gutierrez going for an armbar in round 2 an element of surprise?

“No. I gave him space, man. I took him down and the first thing I’m trying to do is strike on him. When I should’ve really settled in, and got a good position, whether that’s posturing up or passing his guard, or just staying tight right there. I made a mistake, tried to strike with my right hand, he put his foot on my hip, I didn’t clear it fast enough, and then boom I’m in an armbar. I think a lot had to do with fatigue. Being tired. You can’t get in there with a guy thats 15-3, and has a (expletive) full training camp when A. you fought two weeks ago, and then B. drank beer all week, had fun and really celebrated afterwards. It is what it is and it’s gonna go down in history now.”

Biggest takeaway from UFC debut:

“Man, get your cardio up. Get your cardio up. And really just work more. I gotta get smarter. And It comes with cage time. A lot of times these guys are winning fights.. you gotta be smart. I think I pushed the pace a little too hard, which led to me getting seriously fatigued, and just being more aware of where you’re at in a fight and what you gotta do to win the fight. Like I explained.. why would I try to take him down with a double leg twice when I took him down the first time with a single leg?”

Who does Cody want to fight next?

“I’m not sure. I’m brand new in the UFC. Right now I’m just focusing on what I need to do to improve. My main goal is to get a win in the UFC. Once it starts popping off and I start getting some wins and some confidence in the UFC, y’all will see an entertainer.”

On throwing kicks at a renowned kicker like Chris Gutierrez:

“I landed some nice kicks on him as well. I kick the calves as well. If you watch my fights with Sweeney, Dre Miley, a lot of guys i’ve fought, i’ve calf kicked them. Fits right in with my gameplan as well. 

Why Durden couldn’t get the finish in round 1:

“If this guy would’ve reached for my legs or tried anything when I had his back in round 1, I promise I would’ve finished him. But you can’t finish somebody when they just wanna sit and turtle up.” 

Looking in the future, seeing what the top 15 in the UFC looks like:

“They’re solid. There’s some things you can take away watching high level fights like that (Chito Vera vs Sean O’Malley). I’m definitely watching and seeing how I can learn from it.” 

On finishing his last regional opponent very quick before UFC debut & expecting the UFC call:

“Think about it this way.. you see his (John Sweeney’s) past fights, you see me fight the guys he’s fought, and you see little Dave Morgan take him down 4 or 5 times in the first round, 4 or 5 times in the 2nd round. And dude, I felt Dave Morgan’s strength.. I knew I was gonna smash him. You can take things away from watching how they did versus other opponents. And versus your strengths and weaknesses. I knew that my strength was gonna be way better than his right hand.” 

On celebrating his last regional win before getting the UFC call:

“I like to engorge after a fight, man. Eat what I want, do what I want, drink what I want. That’s definitely what I was doing. I told myself I was gonna get back to the gym Saturday. I was on the way,  and I got the (UFC) call. And I was like ‘(expletive), I just drank a shit load of Jack Daniel’s last night. My mentality is kill or be killed. It’s gotta change soon, because at this level, man, it’s a chess match, and I gotta learn to pull back and really know when to go and when to slow down. “

On overcoming past setbacks:

“At the end of the day, dude, you just gotta fight, man. I lost 2 in a row. I was 4-0. I lost 2 in a row. I didn’t slow down, man, I was still looking for fights. You have to take what people say through one ear and out the other. ‘Oh you should’ve done this. You should’ve done that.’ Dude, look at who I fought when I was 6-2. I fought a guy that was 0-7.  Everybody knew I was gonna (expletive) him up. But dude, this is a game of numbers. At the end of the day, you do what’s best for you, and you don’t worry about what anybody has to say about you. As long as your family loves you and your bills are getting paid, then who gives a (expletive)? Just keep fighting man.

What Cody eats during his cheat days:

 “Man I love some damn hot wings. I love some damn hot wings with some fries and ranch. I like them extra wet.. man i’m not trying no baked wings.  If we’re gonna eat hot wings, we’re gonna eat some damn hot wings, and I eat 10 to 20 of them.” 

On hearing Fight Club / Tyler Durden references his whole life:

“Tyler Durden, he’s a bad mother (expletive). I like that movie.”

On the potential Jimmie Rivera vs Chito Vera fight:

“Jimmie Rivera, man, he’s a freaking beast. He’s solid, durable. That’s a hell of a fight. I think I would take Jimmie Rivera in that fight.”

On a potential fight with Aaron Phillips:

“I will (expletive) him up. I will (expletive) him up dude. I know who he is. I will (expletive) him up. Just know that. His ground game isn’t nothing. Even his stand up.”

On a potential fight with Tim Elliott:

“Tim Elliott, he’s got the name. That’d be a great fight. Let’s do it.”

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Dan Levi has gained a reputation as MMA's premiere handicapper by consistently going against the grain with a sharpshooter approach that has coined him one of the top underdog players in the industry. Boasting an over 5 year sample size & track record, Levi has proven that he can deliver a profit year after year. Even in his toughest years, Levi still ended in the green. Host of the weekly show “Half The Battle,” Levi can be found giving entertaining & insightful analysis on the fights every single week. Levi gives back to the fight community by sponsoring over 7 professional & amateur fighters, as well as handling commentary duties for the NFC, the Southeast’s #1 regional MMA promotion. A true student of the game, Levi is a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu blue belt under Professor Gui Cury. All true fans of mixed martial arts can count on Levi to provide a one-of-a-kind listening experience with his unique, enthusiastic approach.