Written by Staff Writer, CNN
Jorge Salinas Garcia may only be 23 years old, but he has already had enough time to become one of MMA’s most decorated fighters.
After overcoming abuse and a father’s drug addiction to reach his current level of achievement, Garcia talks to CNN about fighting his way into this world and the path that got him there.
1 / 13 Forward Link Only one of the team who helped bring Donald Cerrone to Mexico to fight on television is Hispanic, and not one was Latina. Credit: Jared Wickerham/Getty Images North America
After Garcia’s father attempted to shoot Garcia’s mother and stepfather because he was high on cocaine, the boy started to move out of his family home — not that he wanted to.
“It was my dad who broke everything I had,” Garcia says. “He had an alter ego called El Rodríguez, who wanted to kill my mom so I left so fast that my mum found me.”
The first fight Garcia ever took part in was in 1999. The American stepped up from competition within the amateur scene, moving onto fight in the adult ranks to become one of Mexico’s most popular male athletes.
“Mexico doesn’t have a lot of champions,” says Garcia. “MMA is not supported by the government, there is no film, television, pop culture here, so we are literally trying to make it happen.”
A battle with depression
Garcia grew up in the rural town of Hatillo in Nuevo Leon state. His father worked on the plant a few miles away and spent the majority of his time working outside the home.
It was from his days on the trip that Garcia developed a dislike for mountains and drugs. When his father killed his step-mother, he fell into a deep depression and tried to kill himself on two occasions.
Living on the road for most of his life, Garcia admits that he has trouble resisting the temptation to drink and drugs, but says he does not have a happy life.
“Living my life as a fighter is sad because I have no friends, I have no one to hang out with. Every time you go home, you are alone and I have given up on making friends. I have never really grown up because I have not had anyone around me who really cares about me,” he says.
While Garcia’s weight is now brought down to 165 pounds in order to enter the ring, many of his fellow fighters are far heavier.
Garcia is somewhat used to competition, but struggles when it comes to outdoor activities.
“Even my race has been forced. I am the Mexican man’s race — what Hispanic man has reached that level?” says Garcia.
Back to basics
Garcia says he wants to continue fighting and help other young men — his role model being actor George Clooney. With boxer Muhammed Ali long gone, and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto’s relationship with the local fighting community being kept low key, he wants to represent Mexico, Mexico.
He says it is in the smaller, everyday activities that he wants to change things. “Here in Hatillo, we are not educated and very poor,” he says. “We have no children, little things make a difference and I want to be able to pay one of the kids’ school fees.”
Garcia is not allowed to fight in the professional levels in Mexico because he is not a “civilian,” but he hopes to pursue a career with Fite, the sport’s governing body, eventually.
When he made it to UFC last year, he set a lot of money aside for his wife and his child. He did not grow up with much, so getting on his feet now — and even above their heads — is a major challenge.
Garcia hopes that one day his child will go to a competitive school, and he can teach his son to be a champion.