For his second outing in the UFC, Rafa Garcia will get his first full fight camp since joining the promotion. He faces Chris Gruetzemacher later this month in Las Vegas.
Garcia (12-1), a Combate Americas standout, made his debut in March, stepping in against Nasrat Haqparast on just four days notice. The two bookings are essentially polar opposites.
“It makes a big difference just in cutting weight, you know? Cutting weight, four days is kind of hard. This one is going to be different,” the lightweight told Cageside Press recently. “I got the notice three months ago, so it’s a full camp, my weight is good, everything’s good. I feel sharp already.”
When the call came to step in against Haqparast, Garcia had already been working on landing a gig with the UFC. “We were just kind of waiting for something to come up. I had a long contract with Combate Americas, and there was a little bit of negotiations, stuff going on there.” A major star in his old promotion, “it was kind of hard for them to let me go,” Garcia noted. “So after I got let go, we were waiting for the call, and we got it. We didn’t think it was going to be four day’s notice, but hat’s off to Nasarat, he took it, at the end of the day, he won. But I feel we’ll see each other in the long run.”
The promotional push behind Garcia coming into the UFC clearly wasn’t what he’d experienced with Combate Americas. Instead of an established star going on promotional tours, he was another newcomer amidst a sea of fresh faces.
“It’s understandable. I’m coming to a new company. It was like that in the beginning with Combate. I didn’t get much attention either,” Garcia said of the change. “I had to work my way up, so that’s what I’m going to do with the UFC too, try to work my way up, get a bunch of wins, get a bunch of finishes, and work up. My goal is always to be the champion, and to be the best in the world, you’ve got to be in the best company in the world.”
Still, despite starting over in some regards, Garcia’s team all felt it was time to move on from Combate in the end. “That’s the next level, the UFC. It’s the best of the best.”
The UFC currently has a solid roster of Mexican fighters. The enthusiasm south of the border appears to be at an all-time high, thanks to Brandon Moreno capturing flyweight gold. Garcia isn’t salty about not getting the opportunity to be the first Mexican-born fighter to win the UFC belt. “I was really excited. I was jumping out of the chair, getting the chills, it was all insane. The first Mexican champion. I was really proud, I’m happy for [Brandon Moreno].”
He’s also very open to competing on a UFC Mexico card should the UFC put one together — something that feels like a given either later this year, or in 2022. “That’d be awesome. Me and Brandon are from the same state. I’m from Mexicali, he’s from Tijuana, it’s only a two-hour drive,” said Garcia.
Watch our full interview with Rafa Garcia above. Garcia returns against Chris Gruetzemacher at UFC Vegas 33 on July 31.