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Gabi Garcia: Brazilian Jiu Jitsu’s Gift to WMMA

Fightland Blog

By Andreas Brauning


Photos by Mike Calimbas

Towering over six feet and weighing over 200 pounds, Brazilian jiu jitsu expert Gabi Garcia should, without a doubt, instill not fear, but an apprehensive, introspective respect in even the toughest and most renowned sparring partners. During the past decade, the Porto Alegre-born, São Paulo-bred jiu jitsu player became one of the sport’s brightest stars, holding eight Brazilian jiu jitsu world championship gold medals.

Gabi’s not been tough, however—invincible some may say—only on the tatame. As a young girl—since “little” was never an adjective associated with her—Gabi was often bullied because of her size. She’s said in interviews that she always dealt with it well, though—getting involved in sport helped her accept her above average frame. But as we all know, kids are, no matter where you are, a cruel group of humans.

Throughout childhood she took up different sports—even a brief stint in hockey—but found herself in the poetry-in-motion of jiu jitsu. Her uncle, a practitioner, told her that she ought to not take out that frustration on the smaller—albeit terrible—kids; she should rather express that energy on the mat. There was an instant connection to the sport, and one by one she started racking up wins in tournaments, with a jiu jitsu that was almost exclusively informed by her sparring with men. 

Throughout her life, Gabi’s weight was oftentimes problematic. Sometimes it got in the way of her goals—five years ago Gabi weighed up to 250 pounds. It forbid her from getting to where she really wanted to be, it got in the way of winning, in the way of that place at the top where she knew she belonged.

 

Gabi has recently undergone a massive transformation and looks to be in the best shape of her life. She’s in impeccable shape and her future in Brazilian jiu jitsu looks brighter than ever. Gabi is also one of the very few who’ve admitted to be good-to-go with the amount of money they make being a jiu jitsu athlete. So many of her peers rush to mixed martial arts chasing the elusive dollar. And although Gabi’s expressed interest in the transition, it isn’t her priority. 

Last week, Kron Gracie announced that he would finally be making the transition to mixed martial arts, a debut heavily anticipated by BJJ fans everywhere. Another Gracie would bring their brand to mixed martial arts, and his estranged father, Rickson, would be helping his son achieve glory in MMA. On that same card, it was announced that Gabi Garcia would also be making her debut in mixed martial arts. At first it was against a to be determined opponent, but soon after it was revealed that she’d be facing the Japanese fighter Megumi Yabushita—42 years old, and about a third of Gabi’s size. 

Mixed martial arts media outlets immediately called out some of the basest things a man could ever say. It was like a bunch of drunken donkeys braying at the empty night. Calling the matchup a freakshow, setting up made-up movie plots where Gabi would play a washed out mixed martial artist who poses as a woman to continue his career—it was all trash. It was a bunch of noise—the very same kind that still keeps our sport in the gutter of some peoples’ eyes. What they achieved was nothing but to prompt Gabi’s very adequate and mature decision to not take on the fight. 

Gabi is aware of her size. And certainly of her opponent’s. She also explained that there was a leakage of information. That matchup wasn’t supposed to be divulged. In fact, there wasn't even a signed contract, and the encounter was still being discussed. And when she saw the idiotic and completely inane responses the announcement received, Gabi—who already was apprehensive about facing such a smaller opponent—completely rejected the fight. 

It wouldn't be a good look for her, she said in an interview. The public would look at it in jest, mock it—it just would be the worst way possible to start off her mixed martial arts career. She’s still talking with the Japanese promotion about future plans, however—but her sights are now set on a home-turf debut in Brazil. 

At the end of the day, in the Brazilian jiu jitsu circles, as well as in the worthy mixed martial arts circles, everyone knows and respects Gabi Garcia and her abilities as a fighter—regardless of size. Gabi likes to compete, to be challenged. MMA is just her next frontier, but making weight will always be a challenge for her until Invicta FC or the UFC launch a weight division in which she can compete. Until then, she’ll be working on her boxing and muay thai, so that when the day comes, she’ll add that to her pristine jiu jitsu to surely become a name to be reckoned with in Women’s mixed martial arts. It’s just a matter of time now.

It’s most likely true that there are very few ladies in professional mixed martial arts who are as big as Gabi—matching her up should be an extremely difficult task. George Lucas’s daughter, Amanda, is out there. However, Gabi’s size is eclipsed, buried deep in the earth—it pales in comparison to her abilities on the tatame. I fear for anyone, anyone, who they put in front of her, be that in jiu jitsu or mixed martial arts. Gabi Garcia is one of the toughest competitors to ever set foot on a mat, and as such, should be revered and admired with the utmost respect.

 

 

Check out these related stories:

Women's Mixed Martial Arts is the Wild West

A Long Strange Trip: Miesha Tate on the Roots of WMMA

 

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