Interview: Gabby Romero Talks Invicta & EBI 12

(Photo courtesy Scott Hirano/InvictaFC)

One of the biggest female BJJ tournaments will cap off what will be a busy weekend in the women’s divisions of MMA.

On Sunday in Los Angeles and live on UFC Fight Pass, the Eddie Bravo Invitational’s 12 card will be dedicated to the ladies with two standout tournaments with familiar names from MMA and the BJJ community.

(You can see a complete breakdown of the participants here.) 

One in particular you may have recognized from her debut at Invicta. Gabby Romero showed fans an interesting ground game in her decision lost to Miranda Maverick at InvictaFC 24 earlier this month. One of the top competitors in the grappling game, she will make a quick turnaround for the 16 woman EBI women’s tournament this weekend.

We got a chance to talk to Romero about her background and her preps for this historic event.

Wombat Sports: How did you get started in BJJ?

Gabby Romero: I got started in BJJ back in Fort Smith, AR in early 2011 at Omega BJJ. I dropped my son off at Preschool and a girl, Erin Fischer, was dropping her daughter off at the same time and noticed she had a ton of bruises on her face so I asked if she was ok or needed help. She then explained it was from MMA training and what it was and then invited me to a fight the following weekend. I agreed and found out I didn’t like it. But met one of her BJJ coaches that night and he invited me in for a free Women’s class the next day. I went. Took to it naturally and fell in love with it. Never looked back from that day on.

Wombat: Tell us a little about your gym and coaches.

Romero: My main Professor and head coach is Mark Bradford. He currently owns and operates Clube Hollywood BJJ and Legends MMA. He is a Black Belt under Alberto Crane. Mark is a former Program Manager and Head Defensive Tactics / Use of Force / Physical Training Instructor for a federal law enforcement academy and worked as a  law enforcement officer for 18 years. He also trained extensively with Greg Jackson’s of Jackson’s MMA.

I am also under Professor Alberto Crane. A BJJ Black Belt under Vinicius “Draculino” Magelhaes being also the first American promoted to Black Belt under the Gracie Barra banner. Alberto stacked a series of accolades in BJJ and also fought in the UFC.  He currently owns and operates Legacy BJJ.

W.S.: You got in MMA a few years back. What motivated you into making the transition to the fight game?

G.R.: It was just the natural course for me. I reached the top in BJJ and my coach had moved to California so I got kind of stuck for a minute by myself in BJj, and it was right when the Women’s Division opened up in the UFC. Saw an opportunity and decided to just try it. BJJ doesn’t usually offer that much money and obviously MMA does a bit more so at this point in time.

W.S.: You have fought internationally this past year. How has it been for you to go to foreign countries and prepare and win fights?

G.R.: It has been interesting. It’s been hard preparing with having been living in Albuquerque and my coach in California. But seeing the culture and the history as much as I can in my travels and getting to do what I love in the process. Who can complain? The food wasn’t exactly my favorite and the language barrier created a few issues, but we dealt with it. I’d go back anytime and do it again.

W.S.: You took the InvictaFC fight a few before EBI. Was there any worry of injury and how did it help you prepare for both fights?

G.R.: Obviously there is always worry of injury. But with the Invicta fight I knew there was no way I’d get hurt by submission or anything. Maybe some punches, but nothing that would impact me bad for EBI. The training was totally different in terms of both. But I’m always training so didn’t really matter one way or another. I know my game and how to imply it.

W.S.: How was it overall to be a part of an InvictaFC event?

G.R.: It was great. An all female promotion and much more organized than promotions in the past. Created less stress. Can’t wait to get back in there with them again.

W.S.: Your fight with Miranda Maverick showed some innovated BJJ we haven’t seen in a MMA fight. What did you think of the bout and what did you take out of it?

G.R.: I’m not quite sure how to answer that really. I don’t think I necessarily have a normal style in MMA or BJJ. I attack in different ways. I knew I’d have the advantage on the ground by far and think it was pretty clear. But getting her down to the ground proved to be harder than expected. And the armbar I still have no clue how it isn’t broken. But it became obvious after that fight I need to stay at Strawweight. I’m too small for Flyweight. It isn’t an excuse but it’s just where I need to be and makes a big difference. I don’t think it was scored correctly at all. I know I won the first round; second I lost; but third should have been a toss up. I do regret falling for the arm and not just maintaining the back and punching. I will correct that in the future with more ground and pound, wrestling, and standup/footwork. It’s a fight. Anything can happen. And I learned from it.

W.S.: What was it like to get the invite to EBI? Was it something you were looking to compete in?

G.R.: I’ve known since around April that I’d be in it. Of course it was. It’s the first one of its kind. We’re essentially setting the precedent in it for Women later on. It’s the best girls in the world at that weight. I love a challenge and BJJ is where my heart is. So I’m totally looking forward to it.

W.S.: EBI has a different rule set than most BJJ competitions. Have you fought under them before? Have you had to change up your training for the tournament?

G.R.: It does. And I love the rule set. It leaves no questions asked really. Especially with the overtime rules. And not really. Maybe working the back and spiderweb attacks/defenses a bit but that’s it. I don’t want to change my game up a ton cause it just messes with the head and slows my natural transitions down.

W.S.: This is probably the highest profile women’s no-gi tournament we’ve seen. Anyone you would like to face going in? Any opinions on the field and you are looking out for?

G.R.: Obviously the main girls I want to go against cause I want to challenge myself and see where I stand. I know who the main ones to look out for are. But would prefer not to say.

W.S.: How do you think this tournament will impact the women’s BJJ community?

G.R.: It’s just gonna demonstrate that women are just as technical as the men if not more so. And I’m all honesty we’re meaner and attack more I think. We are legit. And it will just grow the Women’s aspect of BJJ so much more and hopefully open a lot of doors not just to us as competitors but to all the girls coming up in the future.

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