Friday, May 6, 2011

MMATorch Exclusive: Pablo Garza on surreal UFC 129 experience, flying triangle sub over Yves Jabouin and proving himself in the UFC

By: Jamie Penick, MMATorch Editor-in-Chief

UFC featherweight Pablo Garza stepped into the Octagon on Saturday night in the Rogers Centre as one of the first two fighters to experience the atmosphere of a UFC event in front of a stadium audience, and he made the most of it, pulling off a flying triangle submission over Yves Jabouin. That move would hold up as the night's "Submission of the Night," sending the 27-year-old back home to North Dakota with an extra $129,000 in bonus money from the UFC.

Just a few days removed from the card, Garza says he still can't process the experience he had at the Rogers Centre on Saturday, and he's not sure anything will ever match it.

"No [I still haven't been able to process what happened]. It's still kind of settling in," Garza told MMATorch on Tuesday night during the weekly MMATorch Livecast at "I never expected anything like this to happen. I think it's going to take a month or so. Even right now I'm looking back at it, and I can't believe I did what I just did. It's still surreal to me."

"The whole environment and experience and everything was surreal. It was something that I've never gone through and something I probably won't ever go through in a long time... I don't have any words for it, it was just surreal. It was awesome."

Garza's two fights in the UFC have resulted in spectacular finishes that earned him bonus money from the organization, knocking out Fredson Paixao at The Ultimate Fighter 12 Finale in December and then submitting Jabouin on Saturday. That puts him at 2-1 under the Zuffa banner, with his only career loss thus far coming against Tie Quan Xiang in the WEC in a fight he took on five day's notice.

"I just feel lucky and blessed that everything's going the way it is," Garza said. "It's only my second fight in the UFC, so everything's going really well. I couldn't have asked for a better start in the UFC... What a lot of people don't know is, before the Tie Quan fight, I had actually just got done having a fight. I had a fight 17 or 18 days before that fight and I had a fight once a month for four months straight, then I took the Tie Quan fight, the [Fredson] Paixao fight and the Yves fight.

"So I've been going at it strong, I guess, for awhile, but with that I guess I'm lucky my two previous fights have gone the way they have. Short fights, get them done, in and out, so it's been good. [I've had] no injuries throughout the last seven or eight months with that."

Garza's activity has allowed him to build up his record and put together some good performances, but after taking five straight fights since August of last year, Garza's ready to take a little time out before he gets back into the cage again.

"I think I'm looking to take some time off, just because I've had so many fights in a row that I was [just] training for each fighter; [I was training for] a specific person rather than training new things to get better," he said. "I need to take time to get better and evolve. And then also I've got a bunch of family stuff going on; I'm engaged now and I'm gonna get married so I'm probably going to take some time off and get all of that done first."

Garza trains out of The Academy of Combat Arts in Fargo, North Dakota, an affiliate gym of The Academy in Minnesota, which is home to UFC lightweights Sean Sherk, Nik Lentz and Jacob Volkmann. Garza also spends time during his fight camps in Minnesota, taking advantage of the greater variety of training partners at the Academy in all aspects of the game to prepare for his fights, and while he's shown a great ability to nab submissions and knockouts alike, Garza believes his overall game gives him an edge against his opposition.

"I think that my strength lies in the fact that I'm a really well-rounded fighter; that I'm not a jiu jitsu ace and I'm not a striking phenom, I'm [good] all around and I believe that my skills are good everywhere," he said. "So I think that is going to provide - and has provided - the biggest problem for my opponents."

Just eight months ago, Garza was fighting in front of a small crowd in North Dakota, and to go from that to a few thousand fans in his first couple of fights with Zuffa to the audience he fought in front of on Saturday night has been a massive jump for him.

"[Those shows are] at two different ends of the spectrum," Garza said. "Even the Paixao fight was probably the biggest crowd I've ever fought in front of at The Ultimate Fighter Finale. It was probably 5,000 [people] maybe. Same with my WEC fight. Going from a crowd of 4,000, maybe 5,000 people to 55,000 people, it's a huge jump; there were so many [fans] in such a big arena it felt so surreal to me and my mind couldn't comprehend how big it was. When I was in there I was just living in the moment."

To be the first to step out in front of that type of audience was one thing, but to set the stage for the rest of the historic night with his spectacular flying triangle was even better. But it didn't just come out of nowhere, and Garza said it's a move he's pulled off before, just not in a fight.

"[The flying triangle] is actually something that I've done before. I've actually done that a few times in a few jiu jitsu tournaments," he said. "Believe me, it's a lot easier to do when you're grabbing onto a gi and flying up in the air. But it's something that I've done in class where, after jiu jitsu class me and a couple training partners will stick around after and just practice dumb stuff and just stuff like that. But yeah, I have done it before, it wasn't just something where I said 'I'll just try a flying triangle here,' I have done it before."

When he does get back into action, he's not concerned with who his opponent might be, as he feels he's in the stage of his career where he's still got a lot to prove.

"I'm just so new to the UFC right now. Rather than call anybody out, I'm just trying to prove that I belong in the UFC," he said. "That's my main goal."

"A lot of people think that getting to the UFC is really hard, which it is, but once you're in the UFC, staying in the UFC is the really hard part. That's all I'm trying to prove right now is that I belong, and that I belong in the UFC, and I think I've proved that so far."


Sean Gannon Edgar Garcia Leonard Garcia Andrew Gardner Tiki Ghosn

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