Gabi Garcia entered a MMA ring for the fourth time in one year, and again scored a first-round victory. Despite the quick finish on Dec. 31, not everything went as she planned at RIZIN’s latest event.
Garcia beat 49-year-old Yumiko Hotta in 41 seconds at the Saitama Super Arena in Japan, but was surprised when her opponent, a pro wrestling veteran, started to run across the ring and jump on the ropes as soon as the fight started.
"When she started jumping on the ropes and running, I looked at Cris (Cyborg) and thought ‘what do I do now?’ My mind was like ‘she’s gonna fly into me and land a punch and my career will be over,’” Garcia told MMA Fighting.
"I was surprised and shocked. I didn't expect any of that. I thought she would throw an overhand or something like that, not to run and jump on the ropes. That scared me. Cris told me after the fight ‘I wouldn't know how to react to that, too.’”
The multiple-time jiu-jitsu world champion is still in Japan almost a week after the fight after losing her passport, and can’t return to the United States or Brazil right now. That didn’t stop her from hearing critics from fans around the world, though.
Garcia was initially slated to face 50-year-old Shinobu Kandori at the event, but Hotta replaced the fellow Japanese veteran days before the fight after Kandori suffered an injury.
"I don’t care what people say about me,” said the 31-year-old Brazilian. "Joe Rogan tweeting about it. His job is to talk and promote his organization. My job is to beat someone else. I’m fine dealing with critics because I’ve heard a lot during my jiu-jitsu career and it can’t get worse than that. And I wasn’t fighting for free, right?"
"Everybody knows the rules and get paid to fight,” she continued. “(Hotta) accepted the fight. It’s not bizarre, it’s their culture. I respect that. It was a big marketing move for the company. ‘Look at us! Bizarre or not, look at us!’ I think (Nobuyuki Sakakibara) is very smart. He’s the greatest promoter in the world. He made ‘Minotauro,’ Wanderlei, Anderson, ‘Shogun,’ ‘Cro Cop’ and other legends."
Garcia guarantees she’ll step inside the ring to face whoever Sakakibara chooses, but thinks her days of fighting Japanese veterans are over.
"It won’t happen again,” Garcia said. "If my boss wants me to do it again, I’ll do it, but I know there are other fighters training for a long time to fight me. We’ll see what happens.”
In fact, the Brazilian already knows who will be her first opponent in 2017. The date for her fifth MMA bout is still yet to be decided, but it could take place at RIZIN’s next show on April 16 in Yokohama, Japan. The opponent? Jazzy “Alpha Female" Gabert (1-0), who entered the ring to call out the jiu-jitsu ace after her win over Hotta.
"I’m a nice woman, but when I can’t control myself when people talk trash to me. And the good thing about MMA is that I can unleash everything I have,” Garcia said. "I saw her before the fight in the hotel and I was suspicious because she’s tall, and Ray (Elbe) said that she had done her MMA debut a couple of months before. She entered the ring after the fight and challenged me, said she was gonna kick my ass and things like that. It was so disrespectful to the Japanese crowd.
"I fought four times in one year, lost 37 pounds in three months, my mind is tired, but I’m injury-free,” she continued. "It’s easy to talk, to challenge me. So I was like ‘ok, let’s do this. Go backstage, do your medical exams, put some gloves on and let’s fight now,’ and then she started saying she needs six or eight months to prepare for me. But she's my next opponent, for sure. That was for real. I had no idea that would happen, but the fight will happen. They haven't told me if I’m fighting her on this next card, but I think I will be on it."