Interview: Eric Garcia

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“This guy isn’t going to do anything or show me anything that my team mates haven’t shown me already.”

Eric Garcia

Interview by: Barry Laminack

Eric Garcia is a man who wears many hats. He’s a father, a business man, a fighter and a promoter. Heck, he might be one of the busiest guys in Houston MMA. That doesn’t prevent him from focusing on the task at hand, in this case his upcoming fight on Feb. 18 on the Legacy Amateur series card at the House of Blues. I caught up with Eric to find out what’s going on with him in and out of the cage.

TCD.net: How did you get your start in MMA?

Eric: When I was 11, I got into Tae Kwon Do with my dad. I did that for a couple of years and then I stopped doing it. My pops kept doing it and got his black belt, but I had kind of laid off martial arts and really just stuck with weigh lifting throughout high school. I was always into UFC, from like 8th grade on. I’d rent the videos and stuff, so I stayed interested but I didn’t really have a big martial arts background.

TCD.net: So how did you get back into it?

Eric: My younger brother. When I graduated high school my younger brother was just coming in as a freshman. They didn’t have a wrestling program when I was there, but the year I left they started one and my younger brother got involved in it. He wrestled all through high school. He came across Travis Tooke and signed up and started doing Jiu-Jitsu with Travis. I saw that he was learning and I was still watching UFC, plus I was getting old and I was self-employed so I had more time so I signed up and started training with Travis.

TCD.net: Now when you say, “getting older”, define “getting older”.

[Laughter]

Eric: Yeah, well not old, old, but I was past my teenage years, so I didn’t start Jiu-Jitsu until I was maybe 27.

TCD.net: And how old are you know?

Eric: 29.

TCD.net: Participating in BJJ is a lot different from getting punched in the face in a cage. What made you want to transition into fighting?

Eric: I think it was the competition of the sport. I wanted to learn every thing. I started competing in Jiu-Jitsu tournaments and was doing pretty good and started bringing medals home, and then I wanted to start practicing boxing and kickboxing. When I started them it wasn’t because I wanted to take a fight, I just wanted to learn. I started off doing privates with Jace [Pitre] for like twice a week for 6 months. So pretty much the foundation of everything I learned was from him.  Then he took an amateur fight while I was training with him and he won. I think it was in the first round via rear naked choke or something.  Then I started doing some privates with Andrew [Craig] and then he took a fight and I got to sit in his corner with Jace and Travis and Ragan in Louisiana and that fired me up even more. Jace started getting in my head and was telling me that I was getting better and my technique was getting good and asked me what I thought about doing an amateur fight. So it happened.

TCD.net: And of course you won because you are 1-0 right?

Eric: Right.

TCD.net: Why the long layoff?  That fight was almost a year ago.

Eric: I was supposed to have a fight with Frank Salinas in May but I tore my meniscus in my right knee in April. I went into surgery on April 23. When they opened me up, it was worse than they had thought it was going to be, so it was a pretty big surgery. I had my leg in a brace locked out straight for 3 months; I couldn’t bend it at all. I lost a lot of muscle tone out of that.  I don’t think I got back in until like August. I started getting back into it little by little and was hoping to get a fight in September, but then I tore up my left knee and ended up having surgery in November.

TCD.net: So are you fully healed up now?

Eric: Oh yeah, I’m 100% and ready to go.

TCD.net: Early you mentioned that you were self-employed.  I understand you have a couple of businesses that you own correct?

Eric: Yeah. I had an older brother who almost died in a car accident on the Beltway. He got a pretty good settlement and opened up a private ambulance service. After I graduated from high school, I went to college for a few years and during that time my brother was telling me to start my own ambulance service. So I dropped out of college my senior year and started my own ambulance service in 2003. I ran that company from 2003 to 2010 when I sold it. I did pretty well with that and it paved the way for me. It was a lot of work but I learned a lot running that company. I have also opened up a limousine service. I went into that with my older brother. We’ve also opened up a reception hall. Later, at the end of 2010 I started up Garcia Promotions.

TCD.net: So let me back up for a minute, did you compete with your brother in the ambulance service?

Eric: Man, there are a lot of ambulance services out there but there are tons of sick people so there is enough business to go around. He kind of showed me the way and showed me the best ways to make money and I stuck with that. He kept his company to a minimum and I expanded mine. I had 15 ambulance running and around 35-40 employees at one point. I had maxed it out.

TCD.net: Talk a little bit about Garcia Promotions. What made you decide you wanted to get into promoting fights?

Eric: There are so many amateur fighters out there and I know it’s hard for them to get on a fight card. Mick is doing great things and honestly I want make sure my shows go the way his shows are going so I look at him as a leader for me and I follow his path. There are so may amateur fighters, but particularly one that I trained with, Justin Castillo couldn’t get on a fight card. I know he had contacted Mick and I don’t think it was anything personal but there just wasn’t room for him at the time. So I was thinking that I could do it to, and with me loving MMA it made sense. A lot of people don’t understand that an amateur association is a non-profit organization so we aren’t making a lot of money when we do it. I actually lost money on my first show but it didn’t bother me because we put on a really good show. So basically, I’m just doing it to get some other amateur fighters a chance, plus I’m trying to bring in some out of town guys to see what they bring to the table too.

TCD.net: Is it weird having your own promotion and fighting for another promotion like Legacy?  Did you and Mick talk about it?

Eric: No, not really, it would be too much work to try and fight for my own promotion. People don’t understand all the work that goes on. You see Mick Maynard at a show and he is constantly moving and I never realized until I did my show in December how much you have to be moving around. You can’t just sit on your ass and enjoy the fights. It’s work! As for fighting for him? If I can help him and promote him in any way I don’t mind at all. He actually helped me out a lot in my first show. I almost lost my main event due to a glove issue and Mick came through and went and got 2 pairs of gloves and gave them to me. We ended up not needing them, but still. I don’t think it’s a competition thing; we can work together and make Houston MMA bigger and better.

TCD.net: So any plans on expanding the show?

Eric: I plan on eventually doing some pro shows. I was really shooting for the end of 2011, but for the next couple of shows we are going to stay in Humble. We really like that venue and we are probably going to run at least 5 or 6 more ammy shows before we try and do a pro show.

TCD.net: What is the hardest thing about promoting?

Eric: All the fights that you lose. The fighters that fall out from either getting hurt or a job or not getting their medical in on time; I think that was the hardest thing.  Also making sure you have a strong fight card. Luckily I have Jace Pitre helping me out with that. Once you have the fight card everything else just kind of falls into place. Then it’s just making sure that everybody shows up to weigh-ins on time and that all your fighters show up to fight night on time.

TCD.net: What do you know about your opponent for this fight, Kaliesh Estrada.

Eric: I don’t know much about him. I hear he is pretty tall, like 6’1 or something. I think he has 2 fights at 170 and I think he is 1-1. Other than that I don’t know much about him. I’m assuming he’s going to be a striker since he’s from Iron Dragon. I’m not really worried too much about him, I’m just going to go in there and do what I do.

TCD.net: So he’s 6’1” and you are how tall?

Eric: 5’9”

TCD.net: Are you spending more time training with taller guys like Andrew to get ready for his size?

Eric: Honestly that’s all I have is taller, bigger guys that I train with. Jace is the only guy that is close to my size.  Otherwise I’m training with 6’2” Aaron Croon who walks around about 160, G is 6’1” at 170, Justin Castillo is 6’1” 170, Levi West is 6’1” 170 and then Andrew is 6’1” 185 so I have nothing but bigger guys.  This guy isn’t going to do anything or show me anything that my team mates haven’t shown me already.

TCD.net: With out giving up your game plan, is there a special strategy you have for fighting a taller guy?

Eric: Not really.  I’ll stay inside and not let him keep me at the end of his punches, but I’m prepared to take the fight were ever it goes. If he’s dumb enough to take me to the ground it’s going to be a short night because I train with one of the best guys in town in Travis Tooke. Everybody knows Travis’s BJJ is no joke.  If he wants to keep it standing we can do that too. I have confidence in my boxing. With everything that Jace has taught me, my training with Lewis Wood plus going over to 4oz and training with Bob and Jeremy I think I’m ready to go.

TCD.net: Talk about Lewis Woods for a second. I hear his name pop up a lot when MMA guys talk about working on their boxing. I’ve even had the chance to be in a couple of his classes. What does Lewis do that helps translate boxing to MMA?

Eric: Lewis ran around with Yves Edwards for the longest, so even though he’s done nothing but boxing for his career, he’s got a pretty solid foundation in MMA. When he works with the fighters and does drills, he teaches things like keeping a little wider stance to do things like check kicks or being able to sprawl during a take down attempt.  To be honest thought, the punching technique is still the same. He doesn’t change a whole lot but does do some tweaking here and there.

TCD.net: Any prediction on your fight?

Eric: It’s going to be a good show. I’m not going to call a round or anything. I’m hoping one round, but it took me three rounds in my first fight. I was really nervous too. I’ve been out so long that I almost feel like this is my comeback and I want to show people that I’m a different fighter and that first performance that I put on was not me. I’m going to get out there and do my thing.  I’m hoping for a first round submission or TKO.

TCD.net: Anybody you want to thank before we go?

Eric: All my team mates, Jace Pitre, Andrew Craig, Travis Tooke, Bob and Jeremy and all the guys over at 4oz that welcomed me in and helped me get ready for this. Thank you to my strength and conditioning coaches Dr. Lu and Quinton over at Plex Stength and Conditioning. Also to my family and friends that I’ve taken so much time away from. A lot of people don’t know that I have two young kids (3 and 5 years old) and they are always like “daddy were are you going?” and I’m always like “I’m going to the gym” or “I’m going to run” or “I’m going to train.”

It’s a lot of work to not get paid, but that victory on the 18th will make it all worthwhile.

TCD.net: You mentioned not getting paid, any chance you go pro later?

Eric: Yeah. Travis actually asked me that yesterday and I told him that I would like to get 5 ammy fights in, and this will be number 2. I want to take a few months and see what Mick has coming up then try and get one or two more in this year.

TCD.net: Any significance in the number 5?

Eric: Yeah, I’d like to get some tough fights and maybe win a title and I don’t think I’d be ready for something like that until after maybe 4 fights. I want to earn it. I’m thinking if I can get a title fight at 4 or 5 and then maybe defend it once I’d be ready to go pro. It would show me that there is nothing I haven’t seen yet.

TCD.net: Thanks for your time Eric and good luck in your fight.

Eric: Thanks Barry.

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