Gabi Garcia’s MMA career was always going to be a bit of a circus. The 6’2”, 226 lb multiple-time Jiu Jitsu world champion was in a class of her own on the mats. In MMA she’s been nearly impossible to find opponents for.
At RIZIN 14, Garcia faced a woman many thought would be her toughest challenge to date. 5’10” Brazilian kickboxer Barbara Nepomuceno. Garcia tapped her with a keylock halfway through the first round.
What followed was both all too strange and all too familiar. Former competitive Judoka, women’s MMA pioneer, and longtime pro-wrestler Shinobu Kandori charged the ring looking to take some of Garcia’s spotlight and goad the giant Brazilian into a fight.
It’s the sort of MMA weirdness only made somewhat less remarkable for the fact that Shinobu vs. Garcia is a match that RIZIN has been toying with for several years now. The Japanese MMA promotion first attempted to book the bout in December of 2016, but the fight was scrapped due to a rib injury to Shinobu. They tried to make the fight again in December of 2017, but Garcia missed weight by an absurd 27 lbs.
All the way through, Shinobu has aggressively pursued confrontations with Garcia, whenever possible. This incident at RIZIN 14 is just the latest.
Whether all this heat is actually leading up to a real fight, or if it’s all just staged nonsense to grab both women some attention – or possibly both – it seems that RIZIN has become the home of one of MMA’s most absurd rivalries.