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Gabi Garcia hoping to turn things around after ‘bad’ 2017

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Gabi Garcia
Gabi Garcia returns to action in May.
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Undefeated MMA fighter and six-time jiu-jitsu world champion Gabi Garcia will face MMA newcomer Veronika Futina in an openweight bout at Road FC 47 in Beijing, China, on May 12, looking to get back on track after a pair of no-contests and a cancelled fight last year.

”Rizin (Fighting Federation) allowed me to fight for Road this time, and it’s my first time fighting in a cage,” Garcia told MMA Fighting. “It changes my strategy, my takedowns. I’m doing a different training for a month now, and I’m anxious. This is the best shape I could ever be, health is good, and I’m happy. I’ve learned and evolved a lot. Last year was a bad year for me, but 2018 has been great so far. I can’t wait to fight for the first time in a cage.”

Garcia made her MMA debut in 2015 and quickly improved to 4-0 with a trio of quick victories inside the Rizin ring the following year. The Brazilian heavyweight was slated to face Megumi Yabushita, who is much smaller, in a Shootboxing match last July, but the fight was over in seconds after Garcia threw an illegal soccer kick.

Three weeks later, Garcia’s Rizin fight with Oksana Gagloeva ended in 14 seconds due to an accidental eye poke. Then in December, Garcia was pulled from a fight with 53-year-old Shinobu Kandori after badly missing weight.

Devastated by the chaotic year, Garcia opened up in a lengthy interview with MMA Fighting in January, talking about criticism, freak show fights and more. Back in action in Asia, Garcia will still have weight advantage over Futina, but sees it as a tougher match-up.

”I spoke with Cris (Cyborg) about it, it’s hard to train for someone you don’t know, someone who has nothing to lose,” Garcia said. “My striking has gotten better, I can see progress in my boxing and transition to the ground. Jiu-jitsu to MMA is completely different than the jiu-jitsu I’ve done my whole life. I’m enjoying training MMA, and I can’t wait to fight.”

”She has said some strong words for me, calling me a disgrace, that I’m not a good fighter and she will take my glory,” she continued. “I’m not used to this sh*t talking because I come from jiu-jitsu and we don’t have that there, but that fuels me. I wouldn’t want to fight an angry Gabi… not angry because we can’t put emotion in a fight, but I’ll look at her and remember everything she said.

”She has made some heavy accusations, but the country that was banned [by the International Olympic Committee] was Russia, not Brazil (laughs). We’re both getting tested, and we’ll see who wins on May 12. I wouldn’t want to be in her spot (laughs).”

Garcia also expects to be part of Rizin’s July 29 card in Saitama, Japan, competing at light heavyweight, and that’s why she will try to keep her weight low, around 220 pounds, for Road FC 47.

“I want to stay around this weight so I don’t have to cut too much weight for my next fights,” Garcia said. “I move better and train better when I’m lighter, and I want to go after the light heavyweight belt next.”

Garcia says she wasn’t informed yet who she will fight when she returns to the Rizin ring, but hopes for tougher opponents instead of facing older competition. However, she points out that lack of female heavyweights must be taken into consideration when someone wants to criticize her opposition.

”You can’t compare my division to Amanda Nunes’ division. It’s also hard to find girls at Cris Cyborg’s division,” Garcia said. “My division is only starting now, and I have to carry the weight of opening it. I deal well with pressure, but it’s a new sport for me as well. People have 20 amateur fights before turning pro, but I can’t do that in my division. (My opponents) have nothing to lose, that’s the danger. They know my game, and that’s why I’m trying new things to change my game a little bit. This fight will be good for me to show what I can do. There are a few good girls that want to fight me, heavier girls.”

”I’m an employee,” she continued. “When I talked about being depressed, it’s because I train hard and then they put you to do something you don’t expect. I never asked for easy fights in my life. I never fought for money. Money is consequence. I will always agree with anything they ask, but that’s not what I want. Now I can say ‘no’ to the opponents I don’t think are good for my career. Not that I’m choosing, but… I think my next opponent will be a good fight, a really tough opponent. I think it’s going to be good.”