CombatReel caught up with 2x Glory Featherweight champion, Gabriel Varga, one week after his epic showdown with Robin “Pokerfaced” van Roosmalen for the Glory Featherweight Title.
In part one of our interview, Varga give us his assessment of the fight, and shares his thoughts on what it’s like to go toe-to-toe with RvR. In Gabriel’s words, Robin’s “a true champion.” Well we have news for you Mr. Varga … so are you. Enjoy!
CombatReel: We’re here with 2x Glory Featherweight champion – a guy so bad-ass, he doesn’t need a nickname – Gabriel Varga. Gabriel how are you man?
Gabriel Varga: (Laughing) You know feeling pretty good. I was disappointed with the result of the fight obviously. You go in wanting to win, and nothing else is good enough. But the fight is done. You’ve got to move on. I’m not about living in the past too much. So as soon as the fight was done, I just sort of dealt with it, and I’m feeling good right now. Looking forward to the next fight.
CR: How are those teeth holding up?
GV: They’re good, they’re good. I got them all fixed the other day actually. It was a very simple procedure actually. I’m just missing a quarter of the top one, and sort of the back-half of bottom one. And they just went over [them], and fixed them up. They look the exact same. And they feel the exact same.
You know that was a mistake, and it won’t happen again obviously. There were a number of little factors after that first round … I think we were all a little flustered with the power he [Robin] had, and I had lots of information coming at me. I didn’t even notice it [mouth guard being missing] until the knockdown. You live and you learn.
CR: So for anyone that missed it. In your fight last week at Glory 34 against Robin van Roosmalen, you came out at the beginning of the 2nd round without your mouthpiece, and you got caught with a shot. At the time, it wasn’t clear if you had lost your teeth.
It was a gutsy performance. You looked good in the first round. You seemed to be trying to use your jab to keep distance, and to set up your knees. But you really weren’t the same after that first knock down. What was your strategy going into the fight?
GV: We looked at him and noticed, you know, he’s very good at what he does, but if you take him outside his game plan, he’s the kind of fighter that can get frustrated.
So we were trying to work the long right hook, the long left hook. I was trying to catch him behind his guard – because his guard is so tight, even tighter than I thought it would be – it’s hard to go straight down the middle.
We thought if we came around we could catch him right behind the ear. So that was a big part of the game plan, to get long hooks going and catch him with the outside of the knuckle right behind the ear. I threw them, and I landed the occasional one, but nothing clean enough to actually do major damage.
Obviously, the front kicks were a major part, and the knees, of the game plan. But two things took me by surprise, which sort of changed in my mind how the fight was going to go. Number one was the low kick. He was very fast getting it off, but he was also able to target right above my knee, just inches above. And your leg can be very conditioned. I have decent conditioned legs. I’ve trained to take low kicks. But I’m not really conditioned just above the kneecap. It’s just a more tender point, and it actually hurt. So I was a little more hesitant to plant my weight.
And then the punches, which were harder than I thought they’d be for sure. So with the combination of the two, the fight was a little tougher than I was expecting. And unfortunately once you go into a fight, and it’s more than you mentally prepare for it’s hard to rally. I did the best I could. And I tried to fight back, but by the end of that 4th round there – I think actually by the end of the 3rd round – my brother was saying we need to knock him out at this point, or at least get a knock down.
And then when I came back at the end of the fourth round. And I didn’t know if my tooth was knocked out, if it was solid or not solid. My brother Aaron told me I have to put him out. I could go back in and finish the fight, but safety wise I want to keep pursing fighting – and other things when I’m done fighting. And going for one more round, you might get knocked down one more time, you might just make it through.
He was stronger. That’s the thing …
CR: So you touch on a few things. Robin was coming down in weight, from Lightweight to Featherweight, so you figure given his power at Lightweight he’d probably care that down to Featherweight. So was part of the game plan to try to take him to the later rounds, and see if the weight cut took a toll on his endurance?
GV: My brother actually watched a lot of his fights to come up with our strategy. And I watched a few of his fights. And he always picks up the tempo. He’s actually one of the few that can hang with me conditioning wise throughout a fight. So we didn’t actually have a plan to get into the later rounds because in my brother’s opinion the longer the fight goes the better he gets. The more he’s able to pick up the pace. And the fourth and fifth rounds for him are good rounds. I didn’t think he would out work me in the fourth and the fifth, but neither of us would have a major advantage.
So yeah that wasn’t a major part of the game plan.
CR: Van Roosmalen is a scary guy. If he asked me for a dollar, I’d give him my wallet and thank him. Were you intimidated going into the fight?
GV: (Laughing) I was really confident going into this fight and that may have been … I think I was a little over confident for a couple of reasons. I had just beaten Adamchuk, and I’ve seen Adamchuk dismantle so many guys. I really thought Adamchuk was going to be the hardest fight for me. Just seeing the way he’s dealt with opponents. He’s fought some of the same guys as Robin, and he did better than Robin I thought.
It’s a hard thing to do like I said to adjust once you are in the fight. When you get in there and you realize this guy is a handful, he’s more than I’ve fought before.
So I didn’t quite rally like I wanted to in that situation. In the future when we have a rematch I’ll come in expecting everything from him. And as I mentioned … he’s coming down in the weight. Everybody was asking me in every interview how I thought that was going to affect him, and I thought either he was going to get tired early on due to the weight cut or he would lack power. And it didn’t look like it hurt him at all.
And I heard from someone actually … my father actually that he posted a video of himself the night of weigh-ins eating a steak, and saying he was back up to close to 160. I didn’t see the video, but if that’s the case how do you do that?
For me, I weighed in at 142 lbs. below what I could have, and that night I got back up to 150. You know, I was sitting there trying to eat more, and I just couldn’t, so I went to bed. For the fight I was probably 150 lbs., so I need to do some more research now, and see what these guys are doing. Because you can’t eat or drink 17 lbs. of food I don’t think. I don’t think it’s possible, but it is for him – he says he loves his food, so who knows maybe he did. He says he loves his food. (Smiling)
CR: It may help that Robin is a shorter guy. You’re about 5’10” so you’re about as lean as you can get at your height.
GV: Yeah, I’m actually 5’11” and a little bit. So my weight cut is actually quite different than a lot of other fighters. They cut down on some fat. They don’t lose normally that much muscle from what I understand. They do a pretty dramatic water weight cut. I’ve been doing my weight cuts differently. And I’m going to go back to adjusting them now because this one I just dieted down to 145 from 155, and then I just did a 2 pound water cut. And during the warmup this time I felt really weak. Just my biceps and my shoulders were fatigued, and that usually doesn’t happen, and I was just wondering you know did I diet too much, did I lose too much muscle? Because my body fat percentage is something like – from the couple of times I’ve done it – between 3 ½ to 4 ½ percent. So I’m probably eating away at my muscle when I diet. And it has worked in the past just doing this kind of dieting, but from now on I’m going to try a little bit more water cut. And see how that works out.
CR: I want to discuss your training a bit because I’ve been getting a lot of questions about your training and diet, but I want to go back to the fight. You said you felt his power right away, tell us about that?
GV: The hardest hitter I’ve dealt with before that has that combination of speed and power was Amrani. He was able to get his shots off fast, but also maintain power. Robin had at least 20% more power behind his shots. And I just wasn’t expecting it. I thought coming down in weight class would hurt him a little bit in that area.
He was definitely the hardest hitter I’ve ever dealt with at least combination wise. I’ve dealt with other guys that throw a single shot, and club their way in, but it’s not hard to block those. You have to have the tight guard. With Robin, one shot gets through and you’re down. So it’ll be a different game plan going into next fight. I didn’t think it would be that easy for someone to drop weight class and maintain that power.
He’s a true champion.
CR: You came out of the first round with a cut over, I want to say your right eye. And you’ve been getting cut as of late. Was that an old cut that opened up?
GV: It’s hard to say. After the fight someone told me I was cut. And I didn’t feel any blood or anything, so I was a little confused. It seems to have been more of a scuff. I went back and looked at the mirror and they put an adhesive bandage over them, and they closed up in a couple of hours. So there wasn’t really anything there.
I think it was a former cut that got scraped open or just a scrape from the glove. I’m not sure what happened there. Too bad it wasn’t left just the way it was because my brother would have been inside the ring, and maybe the mouth guard wouldn’t have gotten forgotten.
CR: I was going to ask you exactly that. Because looking at the fight, I think that if it wouldn’t have been for that cut the mistake wouldn’t have happened with the mouth piece. So what do you remember about what happened in the corner between the first and second rounds?
GV: I’m not good at remembering what happens in the fight minute-by-minute. I remember I went back and my brother was giving me instructions, just saying he’s hitting hard, you have to be extra careful. You have to keep everything long.
I was placing my jab at some points. He wanted me to snap my punches and make Robin a little more tentative to move straight in.
I think it was a combination of a number things happening … I think I was trying to, after what happened in the last round it was harder than what I was expecting, and all the information I was getting. I was trying to put it in play that I really didn’t notice it.
I think it could have been a lot worse. I could have lost my entire tooth. I mean I got hit one time in the past where, just in sparring, where my entire lip ripped. My tooth went right through.
There are so many things that can happen without the mouth guard. So again it was just a couple of tooth chips I had to spit out. It was a pretty minor consequence. (Laughing)
In part 2, Gabriel walks us through the rest of the fight, and shares some of his training secrets. So make sure to say tuned.