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Josh Barnett’s protege talks atomweight aspirations, potential women’s Grand Prix

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Alyssa Garcia, with Josh Barnett chiming in, spoke with Bloody Elbow about Combate Americas building up the 105 division, crazy Japanese sex shops, and touches on a potential women’s Grand Prix in RIZIN FF.

Back at UFC 36, in March of 2002, Josh Barnett stopped Randy Couture via ground strikes to win the UFC heavyweight belt. Almost 15 years later, Barnett now has another protege in the form of a 105 pound female fighter named Alyssa Garcia. Coming off of a unanimous decision victory at RIZIN 3, Garcia is headed to Combate 11 to take on Kaiyana Rain. Before waging war under the wing of “The Warmaster,” Garcia spoke with Bloody Elbow about how she linked up with Barnett, assesses her Combate 11 opponent, and talks about the craziest thing she saw while in Japan.

Jumping from RIZIN FF to Combate Americas:

“They hit me up right after the RIZIN fight. I made a little excitement in the 105 division over in Japan. I know that they’re building up their 105 [division], so after that they hit me up and was excited to work with me and stuff, and I was just as excited.”

Hearing your own farts and kneeing the head of a grounded opponent:

“It was amazing. Seriously, dude. It was so rad out there. The crowd, it’s so different. Over here, when you go and see fights, everyone’s yelling, they’re booing, they’re screaming, they’re yelling this. It’s so quiet in the ring, I swear, like I could have heard myself fart, if I had farted. I didn’t fart, I didn’t fart. But, I could have. It was super amazing and the crowd knows. The last like 10 seconds of the third round, I went for kind of a little armbar, and the crowd, they were like, ‘Woooo.’ They knew what was going on; you don’t see that too often. It was an awesome experience going out there, and being able to knee the head of a grounded opponent isn’t something you get to do over here in the states. So, it was fun and I took full advantage of it.”

Craziest thing you saw in Japan?

“The craziest thing I saw out there, their sex shops are really weird. For sure, the sex shops are like gnarly... The thing that was really crazy, the food places hold a max of like 15 people, unless you’re in something more Americanized. I mean, I was with Josh [Barnett] the whole time; he’s like 6’2.”

Josh Barnett interjected:

“I’m 6’3.”

Garcia continued:

“Or, 6’3. Sorry. He’s like 6’3, you know, a big dude. So once he goes in there, it’s like a max of like 5 people. Everything’s a lot smaller. I loved it. I felt normal. I’m short, so it was like, nice to see everyone my height. The food was amazing out there too... The craziest thing, it’s the biggest city I’ve been in in my life. Josh took me to this one place where you can look out the window, and it’s just lights forever. It just looks fake. It’s amazing, so amazing.”

Josh Barnett’s celebrity status in Japan:

“After my fight, we got to see some of the fights, and there were these guys that were yelling, ‘Josh, Josh.’ I’m like, ‘Oh, I think he knows them.’ So then I was like, ‘Oh, hey Josh. I think they’re calling you.’ He looks at me like, ‘you son of a bitch.’ Then I’m like, ‘What?’ He goes over there, and there’s like a line of people getting autographs, wanting to take pictures, and he’s over there for like a half-hour. I was like, ‘Sorry, I thought you knew them.’ He’s like a superstar over there. It’s so different. It’s so different. I would walk around people like, ‘I know that guy. Yeah, I’m with him.’ It was cool. It was kind of crazy to see that.”

How did you link up with Barnett?

“Craigslist actually. Nah, I’m just kidding, haha. My old coach knew Travis [Newaza]. Travis was like, ‘Hey I have this girl. She wants to go to CSW.’ Over here, where I train, there isn’t a lot of little girls to train with. They had a lot of girls over there. He was like, ‘Yeah, bring her by and we’ll see how she does and stuff.’ After that, the rest is kind of history. He kind of just took me under his wing, and really helped me out with a lot of stuff.”

Barnett retorted:

“The wing was too big so she couldn’t get out from under it.”

Thoughts on your performance against Kanna Asakura:

“That was my first fight in a year and a half, new team, new coach. I’m happy with the win. I got a rear-naked in the first round and I’m kind of sad I didn’t finish it. I had it in deep, and I just, I don’t know. It’s just part of the game I guess. I mean I’m happy with my performance, but I know I could have finished it.”

Combate 11 opponent Kaiyana Rain:

“I trained with her awhile ago. We’ve trained together before. No animosity towards us. She’s a tough girl, a lot of respect for her. Her only 2 losses are against girls who are in the UFC now, and they’re decisions. She’s a tough girl. Her most recent win is against Kyra Batara, who is another tough atomweight... She’s a striker, I’m a grappler. Everyone likes to see the striker vs. grappler thing, so I think it’ll be a fun fight.”

Atomweight aspirations and possible RIZIN GP:

“Right now, it’s just a 1-fight deal. I know April, RIZIN was looking for something for a girl’s tournament, like a girl’s GP, but I think it’s going to be in August. I don’t know if I’m supposed to say anything, but I would love to go back to Japan. I know that they were planning on a girl’s GP, which would be fuckin, oh sorry, super rad. A GP would be so rad, even if I’m not in it. If they decide to not call me in, a girl’s GP for the atomweight division, or even 110, would be sooo rad. These girls at 105, it’s just so cool.”

“If you see smaller wrestlers like the 105’ers, 115’s, 120’s, there’s always so much more technique and battling because there’s not so much muscle. So, you got it so much more technical. So that’s why I like watching the 105’ers. It’s so bad to see the little girls like, really go and beat ass. I don’t know what’s next for me. We’re kind of playing it by ear. I don’t have a fight contract or anything with anyone specific, but I’d like to go back to Japan after Combate, in August, hopefully.”

You can catch Alyssa Garcia taking on Kaiyana Rain at Combate 11 on February 16, 2017. The event will air live on Azteca America and UFC Fight Pass. Stay tuned to Bloody Elbow for all of your MMA coverage including news, interviews, analysis, and more!