Some people meditate. Some do yoga. Some like to hike or mountain bike. Some just play video games. Regardless of the outlet, most professional athletes have an outlet to get away from the hustle and bustle of a strict training regimen. UFC lightweight Christos Giagos has a different kind of release.
What’s better than the smell of old shoes or a sport with ash trays built into the equipment? Where else can you put your fingers into the same holes as thousands of other people? For some, not much is better than that. It’s relaxing and carefree. At the end of the game, the simple push of a button puts a clean slate on the board.
“Outside of the gym, I love going bowling,” Giagos told Combat Press. “I don’t get to go a lot, because I’m always teaching or training, but it’s one of my favorite things to do to keep my mind off of things, especially in fight camp. My high [score] is 194. I’m still trying to break that 200. I’m not a very good bowler. I mean, I’m not average, but I love it. I love the competitive side of it, and how it’s not too straining on the body.”
Bowling is a truly timeless activity. If you love it as a kid, there is a good chance you will love it forever. If you forget socks, no worries, because you can always snag a pair from the vending machine. The sound of balls rolling, pins crashing and the mindless banter with friends is always a much-needed oasis from the day-to-day.
Whether it’s about trying to break 200 in bowling or trying to get back into the UFC, Giagos is always focused on getting better. After opening his pro career with a 10-2 record, including wins for the Resurrection Fighting Alliance and Tachi Palace Fights lightweight championships, he finally got a shot at the Octagon. However, the opportunity didn’t quite live up to the dream.
“My first experience, they threw me to three-time jiu-jitsu world champion Gilbert Burns right off the bat in Rio [de Janeiro],” Giagos explained. “I ended up losing with seconds left in the first round to an armbar, and I didn’t feel like he was better than me. I just felt like I made a mistake.
“They threw me back into Brazil the fight after that, and I got a first-round submission, so I thought I solidified my spot for a while. They didn’t wait too long to hit me back up to fight Chris Wade on short notice. I took that fight on two and a half weeks’ notice. I fought a wrestler, and I thought I was guaranteed at least another fight after that, because I lost a close decision.
“I promised myself I would never let myself get out of shape again. They kept me on the roster for six months, and I signed another contract after that, but after Reebok came, they had to make some cuts, because they just had too many people on the roster. They couldn’t find me a fight, so I got cut, which sucked. But, I felt like I went in pretty young, and I’m happy the way things turned out. I’ve definitely grown and learned a lot from that experience.”
Giagos could have quit, but he didn’t.
“I knew if I stopped, I would regret it,” said the California native. “This is the sport I love, and I know how talented I am. As soon as I see my friends fighting [or] I start watching the UFC and I want to fight again. I start getting excited, and I know this is what I love. I have a job. I train clients [and] I train in martial arts, and I stuck to what I do best. I wanted to go for my dream. You have to. You’ve got to at least try, and I wasn’t done trying.”
Giagos trains under coach Kenny Johnson at Black House MMA and with multiple-time Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu world champion Giva Santana. When he is not spending time with his fiancée Victoria or hanging out with friends, he is in the gym, grinding away. His improvement shows, as evidenced by his post-UFC record, which stands at 4-2.
“After RFA, I signed with [Absolute Championship Berkut], and I’ve been putting in work out there,” Giagos said. “I’ve been flying to Russia, going back to Brazil, and just staying active. I’ve been training hard and looking for fights.
“I’m a lot smarter. My fight IQ is a lot better, I feel like. It used to be that if I was fighting a jiu-jitsu guy, I would just do a lot more jiu-jitsu in my camp, and if I was fighting a striker, I would do a lot of striking and work on my takedowns. But, this time around, I’m actually analyzing my opponent. What is he good at, and how do I defend what he is good at? This time around, I’m working a lot more on specifics, instead of just the type of martial arts. I’m actually thinking in the fight, instead of just fighting. I think patience is the key to the next step.”
The next step places Giagos inside the UFC’s Octagon once again. He got the call to face Charles Oliveira at UFC Fight Night 137, which takes place on Saturday night in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
“It’s pretty cool, because it’s like I get a second chance,” said Giagos. “Outside of the UFC, I was training with a lot of guys who are in the top 10 [or] top 20, and I know how I stand with them, so I definitely think I belong in the top 20 — or the top 10, if that. When they gave me this opportunity, it was like a blessing, because I know this is where I belong.
With 15 submission victories in his pro career, the veteran BJJ black belt always poses a challenge on the ground. However, he has also been submitted three times and knocked out four times. Yet, with Santana helping him on the game plan, Giagos feels more than ready for his next battle. His last fight was in Sao Paulo, so it’s not like he’s stepping into unfamiliar territory.
“They gave me that match-up, and I love that match-up,” said Giagos. “I’ve fought a lot of good jiu-jitsu guys, and this is my shot to show everybody this is where I belong. I was staying ready for a short-notice call like this.”
Giagos and Oliveira headline the preliminary card on Fox Sports 2. Giagos is ready to show the world that he really does belong in the UFC. Oliveira is the next step in his dream of being a ranked UFC fighter and taking a run at a title.
After the fight, Giagos can get right back to his other dream. He can celebrate by breaking 200 at the lanes.