Interview: Steve Garcia

“He’s not going to beat me, not here, not at this time.”

Steve Garcia

Interview and Photos by: Barry Laminack

Steve Garcia has, for the most part, flown under the radar in the Houston MMA landscape over the last year or two. He’s had one fight here in Houston since January 2009. However hardcore fight fans and those who have followed the sport for some time will tell you that Garcia is at or near the top in his weight class both locally here in Houston and in Texas. He’s been at it since 2005 and his list of opponents is a who’s who of Bantamweights in Texas.

Garcia’s aggressive style of fighting and his relentless stand up game has served him well and allowed him to amass a 7-4 record.

He’ll be facing a young but very hot and very talented Steven Peterson at Legacy FC 8. I had a chance to talk with Garcia after weigh-ins about his chosen career as a chef, what he wants out of his MMA career and why he didn’t like the fact that Steven Peterson said he was going to knock Garcia out.

TCD: Talk about how you got started fighting and how you ended up in MMA?

Steve: I started off boxing when I was younger. My dad got me into boxing to keep me off the streets. I guess he thought I was getting in trouble a lot. He had a boss at his job that owned a gym in Greenspoint. I think he wanted to get me in some kind of after school program.

TCD: How did you end up in an MMA gym?

Steve: I ended up still getting in trouble. I ended up in prison. I spent five years in prison. When I got out, I knew I had to get into something so I got into culinary arts. When I got into culinary arts, I ended up at this country club and my boss wanted to go check out Elite MMA. He was like, “They do a lot of grappling and jiu-jitsu.”

I was like, man fuck that.

So we went over there and I ran into Eric Williams and I ran into Antonio Flores and I fell in love with it from there. I new it was what I wanted to do.

6 months later I got my first fight. That was back in 2005.

TCD: So how did you end up at 4oz?

Steve: Well, I suffered a couple of losses, and I’m not going to blame my camp, but I needed a change. I was looking around and I was about to fight Jose Santibanez. When I went into 4oz I saw Daniel there and I knew he was Jose’s brother so I knew I had to wait. I knew they had fighters there and I wanted to grow with that.

When I went to 4oz it was like a big family. Me and Daniel would go at it day after day after day. It was good to be around fighters. It was me, Daniel, Navied and Akira.

I don’t mean to talk down on Elite at ALL. To me, they set the bar for BJJ. I just needed to be around fighters like me, same weight class, same everything.

TCD: So when did you make the change.

Steve: The Rocky Long fight. That was my first 4oz fight. I’ve had 5 or 6 total I think.  I guess I’m like 4 and 1.

TCD: Well, then lets talk about that one, the last one.

Steve: With Campuzano?

TCD: Yeah. What happened?

Steve: I don’t know man. My boxing coach didn’t show up that night, but I don’t want to make any excuses. The better fighter won that night and that was Campuzano. I felt like he may have won that third round. I think it was 1 and 1. I think I won the first round and he may have won the second round but it could have went either way . But then the third round I I think he might have won that round.  A lot of people think that I tapped him out.

I thought he tapped.

TCD: Did you feel a tap?

Steve: I had a guillotine in the first round. I didn’t know at the time if he tapped or not, but every body was like “he tapped, he tapped, he tapped.”

I could hear my corner telling the ref, “HE TAPPED!”

You know, it was a good fight. It was a good experience to fight Will. I had seen him fight on TV, so it was like damn this guy is good. He has a big name in Texas.

TCD: So what do you know about Steven Peterson?

Steve: Not too much man. I hadn’t really heard of the guy. I did a little bit of research on him, so I don’t know man. I don’t like to down talk anybody. It seems to me like he’s a grappler, but I’m not trying to figure him out. I just have to make sure that I’m 100%.

I know he’s a defending champ and I know he’s tough. It’s going to be a good fight.

TCD: You seem to be a very aggressive fighter, especially in the cage. Where does that come from? Is it something you have to work up to?

Steve: Man, I don’t know. Maybe it’s just my background. Maybe I’m pissed because I have to cut weight. [Laughs] No, I don’t have to work up to it, I don’t have to get pumped up. I don’t have to talk shit to my opponent. That’s not me and it’s never been me.

I know I have a short fuse, but that goes way back. I apologize for it some times, but that’s just the way I am.

TCD: Going back for a second, you said you went to Culinary Arts school and I bet a lot of people don’t know that you are a chef. Talk about that, what go you into that profession?

Steve: Actually it started when…man I hate to say this sit, but it when I was in prison. They offered courses in a vocational school, thing like carpentry, electrical etc. I selected culinary arts.

When I got out, I wanted to keep pursuing that so I went to the Art Institute. I’ve worked at the four top country clubs in Houston. I’ve been a souse chef before. Right now I’m what they call Saucier. I run the line. Like if you go into a restaurant and order something, basically I’m cooking that.

I’m good enough to the point where I don’t need anybody looking over me telling me, “you’re fucking this up, or you’re fucking that up.”

I know it because I’ve held a souse chef position; I’ve ran a kitchen before.

TCD: Growing up did you know that you always wanted to be a chef? I mean, did you always like to cook, even as a kid?

Steve: Yeah. I have always liked to cook. Every since I was like 12, 13, 14. I like to make stuff on my own like pastas and stuff.

TCD: You know, you’re the second person that I’ve interviewed this month that has a great success story about turning their life around after getting out of prison.

Steve: Man, when I say I was in prison…man. I was there for 5 straight years in some of the toughest prisons in Texas. It’s not like I went in and got out, went in and got out. I went in at 17 and I did five straight years. I was going on my 6th year and I was like, “Man, they just need to give me one opportunity to get out of here.”

They eventually did.

I remember when I was in there I used to tell my day that I still wanted to box. I even wrote him a letter telling him that and that I hoped I wasn’t too old. Just like 2 or 3 weeks ago he sent me that letter back. I’m not gonna lie, I got a few tears in my eyes. It got me real emotional and I’m usually not like that.

TCD: I heard a rumor that you got a little upset about Steven saying he was going to know you out. So what is your prediction for the fight?

Steve: I’m going to win. I’m not going to lose. I don’t know how, we’ll see tomorrow, but I’m going to win. He’s not going to beat me, not here, not at this time.

I know it’s cliché to say, but this has been my best camp ever. I’ve actually taken 3 weeks off of work. I’ve been doing two-a-days and I’ve been pushing it and pushing it and pushing it.

This is more about respect than anything. I feel more disrespected than anything. I mean who has he fought? You look at who I’ve fought and I’ve got a list of fighters who are established here in Texas. I mean, yeah, he’s got a good record, but I highly doubt he’s going to know me out.

It’s about respect now.

TCD: So assuming you win this fight, what’s next for you? A title fight with Angel Huerta? Are you looking for a Strikeforce or UFC call?

Steve: I don’t even know. I just take it one fight at a time. There is a lot of unfinished business here, before you can take that next step. I think to take that next step you have to beat the people we have here. You have to beat guys like Angel Huerta and up and comers like Cody Williams.

TCD: What are your goals in the sport?

Steve: I would like to be in the UFC at 135. Maybe I can even make 125. I think the way that I’m pushing it now I could. I’m walking around in the low 40’s. Maybe I can take that next step and get that shot at the UFC or Strikeforce. Right now I just take it one step at a time.

TCD: Crawl before you can walk?

Steve: Yeah, but I have been at this for a while. Like I said, since 2005. I suffered a couple of injuries that set me back a bit.

TCD: Now did you have an amateur career or did you start off as a pro?

Steve: No, back when I started they didn’t have amateurs. Eric [Williams] was like “if you want to fight like you say you want to fight, here’s your chance.”

TCD: Do you wish you would have had an amateur career to get more polish and more fights under your belt?

Steve: Nah. That doesn’t bother me.

TCD: I hear you spent some time with BJ Penn when he was here in H-Town. What was that like and how did that go down?

Steve: It was a blast man. I guess Mick had a connection with him being in town. He called me up and was like, “Hey Steve you want to go hang out with BJ Penn?”

I was like, sure, why not. Who wouldn’t.

We just connected man. I don’t know what it was. We were like brothers from another mother.

TCD: I hear you guys were sparring in the parking lot? How did that go down?

Steve: All I can say is, even BJ Penn takes me down! [Laughs]

TCD: HA! So, before we wrap it up, anybody you want to thank or give a shout out to?

Steve: Yeah man, I want to thank Brett Boyce and Made to Win, he really took care of me this fight. I want to think all of 4oz. One special thank you to my strength and conditioning coach Jose Maldonado.

I want to thank all my sparing partners all the way down the list, from Daniel [Pineda], to Adam [Schindler], to Jesus [Rivera], to Joe [Trevino] and everybody that helped me out. I even mixed it up with big Ike [Villanueva].