“I’ve never aimed for opponents; I aim for gold,” says Gabi Garcia just days before competing for the ADCC 2019 title with the new crop of Jiu-Jitsu talent on September 28–29 in Anaheim, California.
A reference as an athlete in the world of competitive Jiu-Jitsu, the Alliance black belt has migrated to MMA, and today has six wins to her name. However, her passion for competing in grappling caused the athlete to turn around and dive headlong into her own ADCC project. Experienced in the tournament, as she heads for her fifth edition, Gabi arrives looking to beat Hannette Staack’s record and be the first woman with four golds in the ADCC Worlds.
Check out our chat with Gabi in this exclusive interview!
GRACIEMAG: What motivates you to keep fighting in the ADCC after migrating to MMA?
GABI GARCIA: What motivates me to keep going in the ADCC even after migrating to MMA is what the tournament means to me. I lost my brother four days before my first fight at the ADCC in 2011. I slept crying every day and was champion that year. I have many future projects, but I stopped everything to train and dedicate myself to the ADCC. I’m living the ADCC and I really want this title, for me and my family, who will be with me at the tournament. It’s the biggest grappling championship in the world and I love fighting in it. I am the athlete with the most titles in the category today, with three titles. Hannette Staack also has three golds, but in activity I am the athlete with the most titles, in fact. My goal is to become the first four-time ADCC champion and to match Marcelinho Garcia with four golds in weight categories.
What has changed in your stamina, technique and fighting outlook after switching sports?
MMA has changed a lot in my game. I got injured in my last fight and was out for a while. I recovered, trained two weeks and fought at the Pan, in which I won weight and absolute, and one of the changes in my game is that I have been moving more in the fights, not to mention my wrestling, which I improved a lot after moving to the USA. I am very confident standing. I don’t think I fought well at the Pan, but I was always moving forward and looking for a fight, very calmly. MMA has taught me a lot: I’m calmer, more agile (doing positions I never even imagined), and of course, my cardio is better than ever.
And the training with Cobrinha — very hard?
I owe a lot to my training sessions at Cobrinha’s gym. It has been an exhausting camp; in the early days I had a fever, my body hurt a lot, like I have never felt before in my career. I even thought of quitting: the workouts range from five to six uninterrupted hours; I had never trained at this pace. Following through was a matter of honor, because it came from me the request to train with Cobrinha. The training sessions are in three stages: technique and wrestling, always with rested athletes against me and Kennedy Maciel (son of Cobrinha). He and I are always in the middle without resting. And finally, after a short break just to change clothes, we move on to physical preparation. I started out barely managing, but today I’m doing very well. This is his style and I hitched a ride on it. In Jiu-Jitsu what used to fuel me was my confidence in my training. Today I’m feeling this way again. No one has trained more than me; I’m very confident.
Do you think there should be more women’s weight divisions or does the two-bracket format give the ADCC its charm?
The issue is not the charm. I think the division is very disproportionate due to there being only up to 60kg and over 60kg. There have to be more categories. Jiu-Jitsu has grown a lot; in the old days there weren’t many girls competing; nowadays we are many. In my category we have several outstanding athletes, many of them very large. There should indeed be more categories, plus an absolute and superfights. We deserve it; we are showing our value.
What’s the key to fighting well in the ADCC format?
The ADCC is a star-studded championship, because women’s Jiu-Jitsu has grown so much and people are seeing us in the spotlight. I’ve compete in very tough brackets in the ADCC; in my first ADCC, for example, I had a 38-minute final with Hannette. No ADCC is easy; you have to know how to fight in the tournament. I know the rules well; it is not a normal tournament; not always the most technical person wins. Your physical condition has to be out of the ordinary; the camp and the tournament itself hurt a lot, so you have to know how to fight in the ADCC as a whole. I know how to fight in this event; I’m going into my fifth edition, and as much as the rule favors my game, I’m coming in hot, with the intention of finishing.
What are the opponents you expect to meet on the road to gold?
There are a lot of good girls; just saying one name would be unfair, but I’m prepared for any fights. Jessica Flowers and Tayane Porfírio, for example, are from the same team and will face each other in the first round, so they are two tough athletes and only one will go through. And we have Nathiely de Jesus, Carina Santi and several other top athletes who, even away from the media spotlight, are always standing out. At the ADCC there’s never a favorite; the winner is the person who is better in both physical and psychological terms. And this year I’m 100% focused on the ADCC. I’ve never aimed for opponents; I aim for gold.
Can we expect to see you in another edition of the ADCC?
My career has gone in different directions. I have a contract in MMA, which is my main focus, but whenever I can I will fight in the ADCC. I still want to fight at the Worlds; I don’t know when, but I do. I’m opening my gym, which is a dream for me. I am Fabio’s first black belt to open their own gym under the Alliance seal, and it is a dream in every way. I’ve fought for a supplement pack and I’ve fought for a gi; today I’ve managed to have my home and my gym, and this is a result of a lot of work. I say this because everything I have came from Jiu-Jitsu. I would like to thank Mo Jassim, Guy Neivens and Seth Daniels for all their support in the ADCC and their respect for the athletes. I think this edition will be the best in history and I’ll say right now that in two years I want to be back at the ADCC, no doubt.