Days after Barbara Nepomuceno called Gabi Garcia out — again — in an interview with MMA Fighting, Rizin Fighting Federation announced that the female fighters would finally collide at the Dec. 31 card in Saitama, Japan.
Nepomuceno, who has a five-fight contract with South Korean promotion ROAD FC but was authorized to take the Rizin bout with Garcia, has been asking for a fight with Garcia since 2015, and admits she was surprised to see it finally go down before the end of the year.
Nepomuceno expected to make her MMA debut in late-2018 or early-2019, she told MMA Fighting, “but I didn’t expect it to be against Gabi because I’ve been trying to fight her for three years, and we were having a hard time getting it done. It came out of nowhere now, we really didn’t expect it anymore. We know from other people involved in the fight world that this fight never happened before because she never agreed to it. And we have proof, too.”
A decorated amateur kickboxer with a short record in professional bouts, Nepomuceno will compete under MMA rules for the first time against the jiu-jitsu specialist. Garcia, 5-0 as a mixed martial artist, is the most dominant champion in women’s jiu-jitsu history, but Nepomuceno believes she has been avoiding her for years in MMA.
Nepomuceno is coming off a frustrating return to kickboxing on Nov. 24, when she suffered another loss due to knee injury. Not 100 percent healed leading up to such an important fight for her career is why she believes Garcia has decided to fight her.
”I think that’s why she agreed to it,” Nepomuceno said, “Or maybe because of the pressure from the public, from the promotion. I don’t know why, that’s on her, but it’s funny that she agreed to it when I’m coming off a long layoff and from injuries. I wouldn’t use the word ‘running’ (from me), but she didn’t want me fighting for some reason. Who knows.”
The Brazilian kickboxer hopes to be 100 percent when she steps into the Rizin ring on Dec. 31, and doesn’t expects Garcia’s size advantage to play a big factor in the fight considering she has faced many kickboxers who weighed more than 200 pounds in the past.
”Everybody knows the physical difference between us, her skills on the ground,” Nepomuceno said. “When I called her out, I wanted a fight because women’s MMA is focused more on lighter weights. I’ve been trying to get a fight for a while but it was complicated to find an opponent because of my career in kickboxing. We waited for the best moment, and it’s here. We know this is not my weight class, but this is the best way to get the world to know me.”
Nepomuceno has showed her heavy hands in kickboxing before and says “it would be really cool” to knock out Garcia in MMA. As for Garcia’s comments on social media, calling the striker a “quitter” following her recent defeat in kickboxing, Nepomuceno says she won’t engage in any pre-fight trash talk.
However, Nepomuceno cited last year’s canceled fight between Garcia and Japanese wrestler Shinobu Kandori as a way to poke the fellow Brazilian. On 2017’s New Years Eve card, Garcia was set to fight Kandori in a 209.4-pound clash, but missed weight by 26 pounds.
”I don’t want to get into controversies and any back-and-forth with her, I don’t want anyone writing bad things about her,” Nepomuceno said, “But I saw some things she posted, trying to get me to engage with her online. Look at her history and you will see a bunch of mess, things she’s done, and compare it to my life. Who has the best reputation?
”In her last appearance in Rizin, she had to get on her knees and beg for forgiveness. The things she’s saying, that’s part of the game. I won’t get into that back-and-forth with her. I just want to do my job and start a career in MMA. I never promised to beat anyone up and get a win. I’ll just go there and do my best.”