Alliance’s brown belt Gabi Garcia at the Abu Dhabi Pro this year. Image courtesy Gabi Garcia.
Gabrielle Garcia has been a force on the international women’s Brazilian jiu-jitsu scene since her appearance at the 2007 World BJJ Championship. At the 2009 Pan-Ams she appeared carrying a new flag, that of Alliance Jiu-Jitsu, for whom she has been a reliable source of new competition medals. Most recently she won the 2010 Pan-Ams women’s heavyweight brown/black belt division, and the 2010 Abu Dhabi Pro +63kg division. The FightWorks Podcast brings this conversation with Garcia, who is preparing to continue her streak for some time.
The FightWorks Podcast: How long have you been training jiu-jitsu, and why did you begin?
Gabi Garcia: I have trained for 14 years. I began to train by way of my uncle, who trained jiu-jitsu and because I was looking to pick up a sport after having tried all the others like volleyball, basketball, and hockey. I began to compete in jiu-jitsu and since then I never stopped. My uncle stopped but I have kept going. Tournaments offer the adrenaline of competition and because of them I can not stop jiu-jitsu. Competition is in my blood.
The FightWorks Podcast: Talk a little bit about your transition to Alliance. Why did you change teams?
Gabi Garcia: Going to Alliance was very smooth. I trained in Brazil with the crew from the Gold Team, but my professor moved to the United States and I was left without a competition training environment and without a solid team. Tarsis Humphreys had already invited me a few times to go train with Fabio Gurgel and Alliance.
I lived a bit in the United States, and when I returned to Brazil I decided to get to know Alliance. I had a conversation with Luanna Alzuguir and we went together. Alliance is more than a jiu-jitsu team. We are a family that fights for the same ideals. They say that we have one chance in life and mine was to go to Alliance.
The FightWorks Podcast: How has training with Alliance changed your jiu-jitsu?
Gabi Garcia: Alliance changed all of my jiu-jitsu. Fabio refined all my technique. He taught me that technique overcomes force and that a champion does not live off of championship victories alone, and that jiu-jitsu is more than this.
People thought that I won tournaments by using force, and after coming to Alliance I was able to show the opposite. People are praising me more and respecting me more. This is my big victory, not just winning the championship but being recognized for my jiu-jitsu. Today I have achieved a more complete jiu-jitsu. It’s diversified. I did not think I was going to like working from the guard but I learned to with Alliance. We have the best training in the world and also the best instructor. It’s impossible to not learn.
The FightWorks Podcast: Do you feel a difference in the crowd when you compete in Brazil and the United States?
Gabi Garcia: The public in Brazil is warmer because of the Brazilian culture. I love to fight in Brazil. But the American public already understands jiu-jitsu and brings the family to the gymnasium. I was well received by everyone and I feel like I’m fighting at home. The American public fills the gym and makes a big celebration of the sport.
The FightWorks Podcast: Who are your heroes (men and women) in jiu-jitsu?
Gabi Garcia: I hesitate to say it because on top of everything he is my professor, but without any doubt it’s Fabio Gurgel. On top of being a spectacular athlete he is a good instructor, a general. Everyone there wants to be like him. He is a great example of our sport.
Among the women I admire is Hanette Quadros. Her jiu-jitsu is impeccable and on top of that, she’s a very humble person that deserves all those victories. She is an example for all the girls.
Gabi Garcia at the 2009 World BJJ Championship.
The FightWorks Podcast: You have competed against some of the toughest opponents in the world. Talk about your favorite moment in competition so far, and your worst.
Gabi Garcia: I want to fight the toughest in the world. I always want challenges. I don’t want my victories to come easily. I train a lot for this, to make myself better every day.
I fought against Lana Stefanac who is 90kg in the gi and never beaten. I was the first to beat her. I trained a lot for that, but I was not just thinking about her. I don’t chose my opponents. If you want to be the best you can’t chose who to fight. You have to be ready for any fight.
In my category there is Luzia Fernandes, a judoka who is very strong. She has already won some world championships and the absolute division of the Brazilian championship. She was well trained and did everything well. That year I only faced really tough opponents, but I enjoyed it.
My weight class these days is one of the toughest in the world, but I would say it motivates me to train more and more, to be the best of the best.
The best moment by far was when I beat Lana in the Abu Dhabi Pro. I was able to win the event. The worst was when I lost to her last year in the BJJ World Championship.
The FightWorks Podcast: What do you like to do when you are not training?
Gabi Garcia: I train all day. When I’m not training jiu-jitsu I am working on judo or in the gym. But when I have free time I like to stay at home with my family, my dog, my father’s grill, and with my friends. But this isn’t really happening much. All my days are spent in the academy, but that’s what I like to do.
The FightWorks Podcast: Where can people go online to find out more about you?
Gabi Garcia: If anyone would like to know a little more they can follow me on twitter at twitter.com/gabijiu or on my facebook (“GABI LEMOS”). If anyone would like to get in touch they can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The FightWorks Podcast: Anything more you would like to say to our audience?
Gabi Garcia: Thank you guys on the site here for showing a little more about women’s jiu-jitsu. I would like to thank the Alliance family for all of the support, to my master Fabio Gurgel, whom I don’t have the words to express my gratitude. I want to thank my family, who are my biggest fans. I’d like to send a message to all the girls out there that want to be champions – that they train hard and dedicate themselves, as it’s always harder for the women, but despite having the harder road there’s always a reward.
“The happiness is in the fight, in the attempt, in the suffering involved. Not in the victory itself.”
Alliance’s brown belt Gabi Garcia at the 2008 World BJJ Championship.