Gibson (left) has a chance to prove himself on the big stage. Credit: Cody Gibson | Courtesy

In 2013, Macklemore was the hottest artist in rap and Lance Armstrong had just had his breakthrough interview with Oprah showing his steroid usage.

In the combat sports world, Jon Jones was the Light Heavyweight Champion of the world, recently winning a controversial decision win over Alexander Gustafsson being all the rage over UFC.

About 400 miles to the west of Las Vegas was Cody Gibson, an 11-3 Bantamweight that was itching for a chance at the bright lights of the UFC. 

Substitute teaching for schools in his hometown of Visalia, California, and fighting at the infamous Tachi Palace that once hosted the World Extreme Cagefighting, Gibson had caught the eyes of high-level MMA organizations looking for Bantamweight contenders.  

Now, Gibson is preparing to compete in the newest season of The Ultimate Fighter: Team Chandler vs. Team McGregor.

Gibson went from the skate parks and streets of Visalia to the wrestling mats of Mount Whitney High School to now potentially performing in front of fans at the MGM Grand on the biggest stage. 

It was all a dream come true. But first, he had to seize the opportunity.

Gibson jumped at the idea of trying out for the upcoming The Ultimate Fighter season 18 of Rousey v. Tate in 2013. After making it through multiple rounds of tryouts against hundreds of fighters from all over the world, he made it to the final stages. 

Gibson, who was told he would be on the show, was substitute teaching for a class in Visalia at the time when he got a text from a random number with a Las Vegas area code saying that he had not made the final taping of the program.

However, only one year later with some regional fights in between, Gibson made his UFC debut against Aljamain Sterling, who was also in his debut matchup.  

Although Sterling won via unanimous decision, Gibson’s performance showed to UFC brass that Gibson, nicknamed the “Renegade,” was exactly where he belonged.

With a 0:44 second-round one knockout of Johnny Bedford after his loss to Sterling, the stars were looking to align for Gibson. 

That was until two losses to Manvel Gamburyan in 2014 and Douglas Silva De Andrade in 2015 tied UFC officials hands together, cutting the fighter from the promotion after a 1-3 run.

“I didn’t even know if the UFC was going to be on my radar again,” Gibson said. “I have done well outside the UFC.. had some big wins…I thought maybe I’m too old.”

After making a move to the Central Coast town of Templeton in 2020, Gibson began to train full-time with legendary cornerman John Hackleman and former WEC fighter turned coach Antonio Banuelos at the Pit in Arroyo Grande. 

At this time, Gibson was beginning to start his family, with his first-born daughter Ella being born in summer 2016 and his second-born arriving in late 2019 from his wife Jackie.

“I know I was getting tired of fighting on the regional scene,” Gibson said.  “I wasn’t sure what my next move was going to be and I was tired of fighting for not a ton of money.”

While teaching in Grover Beach, Gibson got that oh-so-familiar text on his Instagram account asking him if he would like to be interviewed for a potential spot on the upcoming season of TUF that begins on May 30. 

In a season where the fighters being brought on were all former UFC veterans looking to make their way back onto the big stage, it seemed as if the writing was on the wall for Cody Gibson to be a sure-fire pick.

The road to Las Vegas this time around was once again an odd one for Gibson, as after interviewing for a part in the show, Gibson was again denied.

In a season where the storyline was focused on fighters making their way back into the UFC after a hiatus, Gibson was more than willing to give The Ultimate Fighter another try, as it was another chance to be at the top company in MMA with the top prize being a contract to the company.

Two times tried, and two tries failed. Although thankful for the opportunity, Gibson was irritated that he was again passed up.

However, one week later, his manager sent him via text: “Pack your bags. You leave Monday.”

The reasoning for Gibson being given a spot after being denied already is unknown, but it could possibly be due to an injury or drop out by another contestant. 

Once he arrived in Las Vegas, Gibson described how UFC brass handled not only him but other fighters that were on the show to maintain the privacy of results and the contenders who were on the show.

“It was a nerve-wracking week in Vegas,” Gibson said.“They let us keep our phones while we were in the hotel but we could not leave the room without an escort. We were essentially prisoners in a hotel room.”

With all the jitters now out, all that awaits is for the show to hit the airwaves, and a chance of a lifetime for Gibson waiting to be unraveled.

The first episode of the 31st season of The Ultimate Fighter: Team Chandler vs. Team McGregor will premiere on May 30 at 7 p.m. PST.