Gabe Green is a professional athlete — one that had reached the very top of his sport no less. After a 18 fight pro/amateur career that included a finish rate of over 90%, Green’s call up to the big show that is the UFC wasn’t surprising to those who had seen him on the local circuit. However, if you return to his youth, his family might be a bit surprised that he was the sibling who got to make it as a pro.
“My family — they’re pretty athletic people. As weird as it sounds being the professional fighter in the family, I’m probably the least athletic,” Green shared. With an older brother as well as a younger brother and sister who all ran track and played football (in all cases except the sister), there was plenty of athleticism on display and Gabe didn’t exactly stand out. In fact, his older brother would wind up not only playing football in college, but would play professionally in Germany for a short time. “If you were to look at all of us lined up as kids, you’d be like ‘oh, that’s the guy who’s going to be the pro’. Definitely it wasn’t me.”
Of course, while he may be the least athletic of the Green crew, that doesn’t mean he wasn’t into sports in his own rights. Not only did he play team sports like his siblings, but his dad had encouraged them to learn how to protect themselves.
“I mean, I played football in high school, and my dad showed me how to throw a 1-2 in the backyard growing up, just in case anything happened. He wanted us to be able to defend ourselves,” he said, noting how that, along with watching old boxing highlights, laid the foundation for his future career.. “We always had a bag in the backyard readily available to us. So I would go outside and hit the bag, but it wasn’t any real instruction – besides watching Mike Tyson highlights.”
While those highlights and watching boxing with his family sparked an interest in the sport, his level of involvement sparked in a way even he didn’t imagine when he tried out a gym for the first time. His coach quickly realized his talents, and Green quickly realized this is where he belonged.
“I walked into my coach’s gym and two months later he signed me up for my first amateur fight. I didn’t have any real experience before that,” he said. “Then it just kind of took off from there. I knew fighting is all I ever wanted to do once I discovered it.”
The level of which it took off had a ceiling though. After tearing through six straight amateur opponents, Green couldn’t find anyone willing to fight him anymore and was essentially forced to go pro or retire. For Green it was no choice at all and the rest is history.
Although those early days watching boxing and hitting the heavy bag with his more athletic family was formative to this history, it’s worth noting that the majority of his wins have come via submission. Green attributes this fact not to a change of interest as time went on, but to his mentality when it comes to the fight game.
“It was weird because my two favorite fighters growing up… were Mike Tyson and [Muhammad] Ali. I was infatuated with both of them. I was like ‘I want to fight like both of them,” he shared. “I’m an opportunist. I’m going to go out there and try to knock the guy out, but if he gives me his neck, I’m going to take it. That’s just what everyone kept doing to me in my fights prior to the UFC. Everyone kept leaving their necks out there.”
He’ll look to seize his second opportunity in the cage when he faces Philip Rowe on the ESPN+ prelims of UFC 258 this Saturday.
You can hear the entire audio from this interview at 40:18.