WELCOME TO EPOK: GEORGE GARCIA
George Garcia (8-3) isn’t one for sitting on the sidelines when he could be working. A case in point, the rising bantamweight was already grinding away in the gym just days after earning his third-consecutive win inside the cage, and his second in a row against a UFC veteran.
“I’m the type of person that so long as I can walk, I can train, and as long as I can train, there’s no reason to take a break,” he tells us after a tough session in his native Southern California.
As active as “Gorgeous” likes to stay, it wasn’t easy for him to go from late April to this fall in between fights but he was forced to after sustaining a broken hand in his win over Chris Beal that subsequently required surgical repair. Still, Garcia worked around the hand as soon as he could knowing that one day he’d be back in the ring, and determined that when that day came he’d be ready.
“I broke the hand April 21st and had surgery on it the First of May,” he continues.
“Two days after surgery I was working on everything else in the gym that I could. I worked on everything I could do without using my right hand.
“So, I had about an eight-week training camp for this last bout [against Willie Gates] but this fight was five months in the making. I was ready.”
The unusually long competition layoff due to injury for Garcia gave him the opportunity to demonstrate his big-picture focus on his own career. Breaking his hand against Beal halfway through their battle and going on to win a decision, however, showed Garcia that he was made of gritty, elite stuff.
“We were slugging it out a bit in the second round and I threw an overhand right that hit him on the crown of his head, the hard part of the skull. I immediately felt my hand crack,” he remembers.
“I tried to play it off and have a Poker face on. I tried switching stances, I tried using the hand, but I couldn’t. It didn’t hurt that much in the fight because there was so much adrenaline. That wasn’t really a factor. It’s just that I couldn’t really use the hand.
If he had been able to take me down it could have been different because I wasn’t able to grapple with the hand. A lot of people didn’t know I’d hurt the hand until after the fight. That’s what I wanted. I thought, ‘if you guys would have noticed, my opponent would have also noticed.”
For the first time in his young career, Garcia found himself seriously hurt in the midst of a fight, and he’s proud of how he responded to the challenge. “That was the first time I’d ever taken severe damage in a fight,” he goes on.
“That was the first time I had a war, where cardio was out the window, where technique was out the window, where game plans were out the window, and it was all balls and heart.”
The result was that Garcia learned how he reacts when things get hard – with perseverance and resolute will. “It showed me that when shit hits the fan, I’m not going to be one of those fighters who crumbles under pressure,” he explains.
“If there’s something that just takes guts and a lot of heart to finish, I now know I’m capable of doing that…I know that when all else fails, I can tough it out. If we need to gut it out, I know I have that in my pocket just in case. I won’t crumble.”
That’s an invaluable set of traits to have, and to have awareness that one possesses for someone in Garcia’s position. Given his win streak and the quality of vanquished opponents like UFC vets Gates and Beal, Garcia may very well be on the verge of making it to the Big Leagues of the sport, so to speak, where he’d undoubtedly continue to face hard tests.
Garcia certainly feels that he’s getting close to the UFC. “I think it’s just a little bit more personal, now, having beaten two UFC veterans in a row,” he reasons.
“Now, you’re not just looking at how many wins and losses a fighter has – you’re looking at who they’ve actually beaten.”
Garcia’s goal of reaching the UFC has a lot to do with why he just signed with EPOK Agency. “Yeah, I definitely think that was one of the main reasons I signed with EPOK. I don’t think anybody has ever gotten into the UFC without a good manager,” he explains.
Garcia had learned of EPOK and met its head Ajay Chander through UFC veterans who’ve worked with the agency, Danielle Taylor and Alan Jouban, and had kept on good terms with Chander over time. Eventually, the agency’s work and vision convinced Garcia that it was not only time to get a management team, but to make sure that it was EPOK.
“Ajay knows what he’s doing,” he continues.
“Everything he does has a plan behind it. He doesn’t wing it and just see what happens. No, Ajay and EPOK plan and structure things. Going about a career like this, you need to have a plan, and Ajay is a man with a vision, a man who can make it happen as long as…I do what I need to.”
As Garcia’s dream of making it to the UFC looms large, he seems to view partnering with the right management team as just as crucial to fulfilling it as his own training and competition success is. Garcia knows he can rely on himself when things get tough, and he has confidence that his new management team at EPOK will also be there with him when he needs them.
“I trust in Ajay, and I know him. I didn’t sign with EPOK after a first time meet and greet or anything. It took knowing him for a bit, talking with him, and it made it a more calming process.
“Now, I need to get a little more in-depth with my career. It’s not just about fighting – it’s about staying under contract, about giving my manager and his team a reason to promote me, to get me better deals, sponsors, and everything that comes with that.”
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