Fighters often share with writers/reporters the moment they discovered MMA. Many instantly knew that’s something they wanted to pursue. UFC Vegas 38’s Devonte Smith could even recall the specific fight he was watching when it happened – Rampage’s slam KO over Ricardo Arona. But that’s not true of every fighter, and it certainly isn’t true of Steve Garcia.
In fact, Garcia only vaguely remembers seeing MMA for the first time. What he does remember, is not caring for it.
“I’m going to be real with you – the first time I ever saw an MMA fight, I thought those guys were stupid,” Garcia admitted. “It was one of the most bloody fights that I have ever seen.”
The details to that first fight are a little foggy to him. He has some suspicions based on the fact that it was a bloody fight, but he doesn’t recall all of the details.
“It was probably a Diego Sanchez fight, but I have no idea,” he said. “It might have been a UFC fight, it could have been a Dream fight or something – I’m not sure.”
So, how did a guy who thought MMA was stupid, not only come around to MMA as a sport, but reach it’s highest level? It started, like a lot of other fighters, with self-defense.
“I’ve always been a ballplayer. I like playing baseball, so baseball was always kind of my realm,” he shared. “I got into some issues growing up, in high school. I talked to my dad about how to protect myself, and maybe we can get me to a boxing gym – because MMA wasn’t big at the time.”
However, there wasn’t a place around him that fit what he was looking for. Instead, thanks to a chance encounter between his dad and an old friend, Garcia wound up at an MMA gym. The result, was something he just couldn’t get enough of.
“The first thing he showed me was a rear naked choke and I was landing it on people not knowing anything else but that choke,” Garcia said. “I was just like ‘man, this is so cool.”
That ‘cool’ feeling didn’t pass. As he learned more and more about the sport, he began to love it and need to be a part of it. It also helped that it was so different from his original love – it felt like he was getting into athletics all over again in a completely new way.
“It grew into a passion. There was so much fun and it challenged me in a whole different way,” he said. “I’ve always been a part of team sports and I like the idea of being reliant on myself.”
Garcia will once again be reliant on himself at UFC Vegas 39 where he takes on Charlie Ontiveros. That bout will take place as part of the ESPN+ prelims starting at 1pm EST.
You can hear the entire audio of this interview at 2:11.