A much-needed November win over Mark Hominick means UFC featherweight contender Pablo Garza (12-3 MMA, 3-2 UFC) has a little room to breathe – but he admits it’s not much. And so “The Scarecrow” changed things up ahead of his UFC on FUEL TV 9 fight with Diego Brandao (16-8 MMA, 2-1 UFC), enlisting the service of American Top Team in preparation for the bout.
“A teammate of mine for the Minnesota Martial Arts Academy went down there to check it out, as well, and it went really good,” Garza told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com). “I decided to complement that fight camp into my own fight camp.
“I come from a small gym, and down at American Top Team, they just have so many more professional fighters than my gym does. They have a lot of fighters, so I got a lot of different looks. I got to spar and wrestle with a lot of different guys, a lot of different talented people at different parts of the game, different aspects of the game. So it was really beneficial to me to go down there and see that and get that.”
UFC on FUEL TV 9 takes place Saturday at Stockholm’s Ericsson Globe Arena. The evening’s main card airs in North America on FUEL TV following prelims on Facebook.
Prior to the win over Hominick, Garza had struggled through consecutive losses to Dennis Bermudez and Dustin Poirier. The 29-year-old admits the thought of posing his spot on the UFC roster weighed heavy on his mind.
“I definitely felt like I was on the chopping block,” Garza admitted. “If I would have lost, I think I would have been cut – at least that’s the way I felt.
“It affects you. It made me fight harder, you know? Fight stronger. I felt like my back was against the wall, and if I didn’t perform I was going to get cut, so I felt like I was just going to go out there and just fight and put on a good fight. If I did lose, I was just going to make sure it was a good fight, and it just turned out my way. I ended up winning.”
It was a change in mindset for Garza, who made a splash on the UFC scene with back-to-back “Fight Night” bonuses in spectacular wins over Yves Jabouin and Fredson Paixao. But Garza admits the desire to live up to those debut performances may have affected his approach during his recent losing streak.
“I think it did,” Garza admitted. “I felt like I had to be that guy who does something crazy again over and over. In the back of my mind, I think it kind of hindered me, I guess.
“I’m not taking anything away from the two guys that I lost to. They’re very good fighters. But that’s something I kind of looked into against Hominick, where I was more like, ‘I’m just going to go in there and fight. I’m not going to be worried or trying to think about doing something crazy or something exciting. I’m just going to fight, and whatever happens, happens.’ That’s the different way I went about the Hominick fight.”
The adjustment paid off with a win, and Hominick ultimately elected to walk away from the sport. Now Garza moves on to a main-card meeting with “The Ultimate Fighter 14? winner Diego Brandao, a hyper-aggressive Brazilian slugger who’s main goal is to be known as MMA’s Mike Tyson.
Garza is well-aware of his opponent’s reputation, but he believe he’s prepared for the challenge.
“Diego Brandao is very tough,” Garza said. “He definitely goes in there to knock people’s heads off. He goes in there to hurt people and to win by knockout. He’s definitely a dangerous guy.
“We’ve been studying him a lot, and I still feel like this is a fight I can win. He’s a very dangerous fighter, but I feel like I can definitely pull this one off.”
And fueling that confidence is the training he received at American Top Team. Garza believes he’ll continue to seek out the assistance of the top academy for future fights, as well.
“I just feel like American Top Team opened it up a little bit,” Garza said. “It opened up a different avenue with me where hopefully I can keep going down there. They have so many guys down there and so much talent that every time you spar, you’re faced with a new situation or somebody that’s really good at one thing where the other guy wasn’t as good. So I’m going to keep an open eye on going back down to American Top Team and implementing them more in my career.”
Garza will have a cheering section on hand in Stockholm, as his wife was born and raised in nearby Norway, and her family will make the short trip to watch the fight. But Garza doesn’t need any motivation.
Despite earning himself some wiggle room with the win over Hominick, Garza isn’t take any chances. As far as he’s concerned, this is a definite must-win.
“I still feel like I have to win in order to keep my job,” Garza said. “There’s been a lot of cuts. You have to be exciting. You have to be able to put on fights, put on shows, so I feel like I still have to perform really, really good.
“I’m definitely going to try and impose my game and my will on him, and whatever he presents, that’s what I’m going to go with. I’m just going to try and fight my fight.”
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