It is Gabi Garcia’s most controversial matchup thus far in her 3-0 professional mixed martial arts career.
The female Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt world champion that fights at light heavyweight will be fighting the 52-year-old Japanese judoka, pro wrestler, and MMA fighter Shinobu Kandori at RIZIN 4 on December 31.
Kandori who is now a politician will get back to fighting as her last competition took place in 2000.
Garcia says that she was not interested in the fight against Shinobu but was convinced by RIZIN CEO Nobuyuki Sakakibara that it would be good for everyone involved.
“I found out about the fight moments before the press conference,” Garcia told MMA Fighting. “I was ready for the press conference when my boss called me and explained the reason why he wanted to do this fight, and I talked to my manager about it. I mean, I said yes because I understand my boss’ side, I believe in what he’s doing because he’s a great promoter, and I’m an employee. I will enter the ring to fight whoever they put in front of me.”
“I was in a room and she was in a separate room,” the Brazilian continued. “They announced me, I entered the press conference and then they announced her. When I saw her, I was like ‘oh my…’ At the press conference, someone asked her if she was going to train hard, and she said she wouldn’t because she can rely on the Japanese technology. I didn’t understand anything [laughs]. Japan is really different. But I don’t pick opponents.”
Garcia explained how the negotiation with Sakakibara went with not initially wanting to accept the fight with her 52-year-old opponent.
“When I told him I didn’t want this fight, that it’s not the type of fight I wanted for me right now, he explained her history in the sport, that she challenged me,” Garcia said. “She was the only Japanese that wanted to fight me. She fought men in the past, she has a history in judo, and she wanted to fight me. (Sakakibara) went to her gym to watch her train, too. In his head, this fight is like Bob Sapp against ‘Minotauro’ (Nogueira). It’s the concept of the Japanese show.
“It’s good for the market. I was shocked at how excited Japanese fans are for this fight. (Sakakibara) said ‘Gabi, this fight will be good for your name in Japan, good for us, and good for her.’ And now I have the obligation to win [laughs]. The last time I underestimated an opponent I lost, so I will never do that. I respect her history. I had losses to smaller girls in jiu-jitsu in the past, so I respect everyone.”
Interestingly for the matchup, Garcia told MMA Fighting that she can’t weigh more than 15 pounds than Kandori who walks around 187.3 pounds. Garcia said she currently weighs 213.8 pounds and plans to cut down to 198.4 for the weigh-in the day before the bout.
What are your thoughts on this Japanese year-end matchup? Sound off in the comments!