Gabi Garcia: Powerhouse of the Alliance Women’s TeamMay 27th, 2011 by Budo Jake
This interview was conducted by Budovideos staff reporter Erin Herle.
How did you find jiu jitsu and what has your journey been like thus far?
Jiu jitsu is my life. I have been training since I was a child. My life, my friends, and everything I do is about the sport and I think I’ve been doing a good job working towards that. The life of a fighter is hard, especially for a woman but it’s what I love and what I chose to do. If I make this choice, I do everything I can to be the best.
Were you involved in any sports before you started jiu jitsu?
My family always supported the practice of sports, both for me and my sister. Before starting jiu jitsu, my mother put me in volleyball, basketball, hockey, and even jazz dancing. It didn’t go too well, since I was always the biggest girl in the class and it just didn’t suit me. It was at jiu jitsu where I found my true passion. Also, I was always very competitive, I couldn’t stand losing even at par-ou-ímpar… (laughs)
[NOTE: Par-ou-ímpar is a game similar to rock-paper-scissors, meaning "odds or even numbers".]
Is jiu jitsu competitor your full time role or do you have other priorities?
I dedicate all of my time to jiu jitsu. When I was a purple belt, I could still work and study at college, but then I had to decide if I would carry on the sport as a profession, so I had to opt only for jiu jitsu. Now I spend all of my day training. I arrive early at the academy and I take my first class by the master Fábio Gurgel, then I go to my first physical training with my coach Edson Ramalho, and at night, I alternate between training jiu jitsu and judo. If you want to be the best, you have to dedicate yourself completely and always give your best. My only goal now is to be world champion and win the ADCC, and for that, I’ll dedicate myself fully.
How far along in your jiu jitsu training did you decide to make this your career?
I started to compete in many tournaments and I took a liking for it so I wanted to train more and achieve better results. I then decided that I was going to dedicate myself more and take the sport as a profession. I have no regrets about it, because I do what I love.
How much do you train and how do you divide your time between each aspect (strength and conditioning, weight training, sparring, technique, etc)?
Master Fábio Gurgel leads my training. I follow Alliance’s training program which includes training jiu jitsu twice a day, and I do physical preparation. All of my conditioning is taken care of by my coach Edson Ramalho, with a different focus depending on each tournament. I alternate my physical training with weight training and running and judo twice a week. In total I train 3 times a day, every day.
You have taught multiple seminars with your teammate Luanna Alzuguir, do you have plans in the future to teach in an academy?
Of course, but first I want to compete and win many world titles and I think there’s still much to do for women’s jiu jitsu. Luanna and I had much success in our seminars because there were more men than women attending, who left using our techniques, changing the image of a women’s seminar. I want to have my own gym and my students, and have my own women’s team.
You recently made some drastic changes in your weight and body, how hard was it to make this transformation and what kind of routines did you have to maintain?
It was and is hard. Truth be told, it all started when I won the worlds last year. My master told me that I needed more agility and to change my game, play guard more often, and all is welcome if it helps my progress. I looked for a sport nutritionist to help me. I wanted to lose weight but not physical strength. I’ve been dieting for 8 months and it’s very hard, because I have to eat chicken and sweet potatoes every morning. You have to be strong willed and dedicated. Another factor that helped me a lot was starting to train in physical preparation and functional training with Edson Ramalho. My agility is another thing now, I’m doing better at training and I have cardio to spare. Now I want to keep dieting so I can move myself better. My master was right, and today, I can say that I have a good guard which helped me when I needed it the most.
You are a notable athlete in jiu jitsu for your size and stature and have even been the target of teasing from other teams. How much does this bother you and how do you deal?
I believe that if I didn’t go through that, I wouldn’t be where I am today. One of the things that made me reach the top was showing those people who talked about me that I was much more than they thought I was. Now most people who talked about me will say their opinion has changed and that they admire me. You have to follow the right path always and refrain from bad things. You have to follow your dreams and know your purpose. What people think about you today is their problem. I fight for my dreams and objectives and I showed many people that they were wrong and I have my worth.
Who are your idols and influences?
My biggest idol is my master Fábio Gurgel. He’s beyond just a leader and professor, he’s a great athlete, does physical preparation and trains everyday with us. I try to follow everything he tells me, and I try to mirror his jiu jitsu. If I can come close to what he is for the sport, I’ll be very happy. Besides, he taught me that technique trumps strength and made me a true athlete. Gurgel is the biggest influence for making me be where I am, I owe a lot to him.
Have you considered branching out into fighting MMA?
I really want to fight in MMA, but first, I have to achieve some Goals in jiu jitsu. I have some more Worlds to win. Who knows, later on when women’s MMA is better recognized and I get a good enough offer, I might migrate to MMA.
What future goals have you yet to accomplish?
The only title that I still do not is ADCC. I was honored by being invited by the Sheik Thannon to participate in the event and I’ll dedicate even more and train a lot to win this ADCC. I want to keep my world title and reach for another absolute win. I’ve been training a lot and I have dedicated myself to preparation for this world’s since January. I’m confident and I’ll give my life on the mats in California; I’m ready for great battles.
What advice can you give to female competitors making their way up the rankings in high level competition?
That they should never give up their dreams. It’s a hard path but it’s worth it, that they should always dedicate themselves and train a lot.
There is no glory without sacrifice, so give your best and fight for what you really want. I am very happy with the path I took, and I would do it all again.
Anything else you would like to add?
I would like to thank Budovideos for the opportunity, to my master Fábio Gurgel and my fitness coach Edson Ramalho, to my sponsors Keiko Sports, MGinaction and Corinthians, and send a big hug to everyone who likes my work. Thanks for all of the messages I receive, I can say that I’m a happy and complete person for being where I am and doing what I love. I’ll keep training and dedicating myself to take women’s jiu jitsu to the place where it deserves to be.
Watch Gabi in the finals of the 2011 Pan Jiu-jitsu tournament.