It was the best of times then it was the worst of times for UFC featherweight Pablo Garza. In essence, it truly has been a tale of two very different years for the highly touted prospect. At 2-2 inside the Octagon, “The Scarecrow” first saw glory in back-to-back flying first round finishes that earned a Knockout of the Night bonus and then a Submission of the Night bonus. Following that, Garza was D’Arce choked by Dustin Poirier at UFC on FOX, and then was on the receiving end of a takedown clinic by Dennis Bermudez in May.
It has been eye-opening and character building to say the least for the 29-year-old, and the lessons are not lost on Garza. If anything, he is using this short losing streak as a learning experience and one that could have lasting positive effects that take 12-3 Garza to the next level as a UFC fighter.
“I've learned that you can be on top of the world and lose it all just as fast,” reveals Garza. “I got my flying knee knockout against [Fredson] Paixao and I got my flying triangle submission against Yves [Jabouin] then I had two losses in a row. You can be on top of the world and lose it all. I've learned to keep grinding. I've learned to keep focusing on training and not how good things may be. I need to work on not being taken down and work on finishing fights for sure. What I learned most was going out there and fighting my fight and not trying to cope with another fighter's style. Just go out there and be myself and fight and not be worried about what he might do to me. That's the biggest thing.”
The North Dakota native’s first step toward being proactive in curbing his in-cage problems was an ingenious one, and it required a plane flight to Northern California. If there's something strange in your UFC career, who ya gonna call? Nate Diaz. “Nate is taller and lankier like me,” says Garza. “It was good to learn and train with somebody who has a similar body type as me and hear their perspective on the fight game. That was the whole idea of me going out there.”
For three weeks, Garza battled with and alongside the “Skrap Pack” at Cesar Gracie’s gym in Stockton, CA. As mentioned the majority of the allure was working with the UFC’s number one lightweight contender, Diaz, while he is preparing for his title fight with current champion Benson Henderson in December. Two of the most notable aspects of his approach to fighting that Garza picked up on is Diaz’s attitude both in the Octagon and in the gym, something that has led to a lot of Diaz’s success.
“I believe it's a mindset,” explains Garza. “To throw it out there, Nate doesn't give a s**t. If you put Nate in a ring in front of somebody, he's going to fight. That's just his mindset. Because of that, that makes him so good. That's the type of mindset that I'll have.”
The Diazes are well-known for a fearlessness and ferociousness in the cage, and that is honed by how they prepare in the gym. “They train like how they fight,” affirms Garza who admits his previous sparring sessions were not as severe, so he benefitted from the impassioned workouts. “They don't go out there and pitter patter each other for five rounds. They go out there and train hard and spar hard like it was a fight, and they’re more intense in sparring because that will reflect in your fighting.”
Up next for Garza to show off his version of the “Stockton Slap” is a UFC 154 bout in Montreal, Canada against featherweight stalwart Mark Hominick. Despite a three fight losing streak, Ontario’s striking savant is still one of the more feared and respected veterans the UFC has to offer. Recently, Hominick has been on the losing end of two Fight of the Night performances in his last three fights against Eddie Yagin and UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo. Also, “The Machine” just passed an anniversary marking a decade in MMA, and his continuing presence in the sport has been a shining example for newer generations.
“Mark Hominick is an awesome fighter,” admits Garza. “Before I even got in the WEC, he was a guy I would watch that I would honestly look up to and be amazed at how awesome he is at fighting. His standup is amazing. He's just awesome. He's just a guy I really looked up to and a guy who I tried to copy for my own fight game to be like his. It's an honor to even fight him and it's a test for me. Even though he's on a losing streak, he's still dangerous and he's still a big name. He's still an awesome fighter. I don't take anything away from him just because he lost his last three fights. I still consider him top 10 in this division, in my opinion. He's an awesome fighter, and for me to beat him will be huge in my career.”
Besides the near month with Diaz, the University of North Dakota graduate has been training with his hometown fight team at the Academy of Combat Arts led by Erik Paulson protege Dylan Spicer. “We're a small gym over here, but the talent of training partners and coaches is pretty big,” adds Garza of the Fargo sister school to Paulson’s The Academy in Minnesota, where Garza also trains. “We always try to break down what I'm not good at and always try to improve that and focus on those things. Also, I've learned to calm down and not let the lights and cameras go to my head. It's the same mindset of going in to win and to train hard though.”
On November 17th, “The Scarecrow” will tangle with “The Machine” in a scrap to get back on the winning track. “It’s going to be Fight of the Night, simple as that,” predicts Garza, who will be poised to act instead of react against one of his MMA idols. “I’m going to have a different mindset than I had before, and be myself like I did in the Paixao fight and like I was for Yves. Instead of thinking about how not to lose, I'm going to think about winning. Me beating one of my MMA heroes is going to be good.”
Garza Aims to Turn Things around at UFC 154
"I've learned that you can be on top of the world and lose it all just as fast." - Pablo Garza