Gabriel Varga – Glory Featherweight Champion


International Kickboxer Magazine, May/June 2015

Hi Gabriel, how old are you?

I’m twenty-nine.

What weight do you fight at?

One hundred and forty-three pounds, or sixty-five kilograms.

What does your fight record stand at?

Twenty-six wins and two losses, with eight of those wins by KO.

What titles do you currently hold?

I am the current GLORY Featherweight Champion, WKN Pro World Champion, and the WKF Pro World Champion. In the past I have held a number of amateur titles, including two ISKA World Championships, an ISKA North American belt, an ISKA Canadian Championship, and a WKA BC belt.

How did you become involved in martial arts?

My father started teaching my brother and I martial arts at a young age. When I was around eight years old, he signed us up at our first Karate dojo. One of his rules was [that] we had to get our black belts. I’m very glad that was something he required.

Did you play other sports growing up?

I did a few other sports here and there; soccer and rock climbing, but my favourite was martial arts. I trained in karate, jiu-jitsu, and aikido before I transitioned to kickboxing at around sixteen years old.

Do you still practice Shotokan at all? Is it a good basis for a kickboxer?

I haven’t done any Shotokan training in almost ten years. Ever since I started my amateur career in 2006, I’ve been entirely focused on kickboxing. But I do believe my karate background was helpful. It helped with balance and the ability to have an assortment of flashy kicks. Plus, I guess I get to practice a little when I teach.


Did you alter your technique once you began training in kickboxing and Muay Thai?

Very much. I spent four to five years trying to alter my point-fighting habits and learning to box and strike with power. It took a lot of training to learn to keep my chin tucked.

How did you find training in Thailand? Did you ever fight there? If so, what was the experience like?

I’ve never fought in Thailand. I was training for an ISKA North American title fight back home and didn’t want to risk getting cut and missing out on the chance to win the title. I really enjoyed the training, though. My clinch game improved dramatically and I felt very confident in my skills after training there.

I sparred with a lot of guys in Thailand and they were always trying to hurt me. I’ve been told by so many people that guys in Thailand don’t spar hard; I’d have to disagree with that. Every gym I went to we’d put on headgear, 18oz gloves, and go really hard.

And the trainers loved it when I’d out-work their students. They’d come over give me water while smiling and make their students do more rounds with me. I was really surprised by the intensity in sparring.

Before going to Thailand I’d only trained with Canadians but over there, I realized I could hold my own with Thais and all the foreigners I worked with.

You fought – and defeated – Joe Concha for the ISKA super-lightweight amateur world title. How did you approach Joe? Did you know much about him beforehand? How did the fight progress?

I knew a bit about Joe before we fought; I always like to do as much research as possible about opponents and back then, he had a few videos on youtube. I can’t remember what my game plan was, but we had a good fight. I think I won four or five rounds and I put him down in the fifth with a body shot.
He was a very good opponent for me. He had a clean style and was quite good. We were both undefeated and ISKA told me Canadians hadn’t beaten an Australian for a world title in 18 years. That made the win very exciting.

Joe was awesome. Such a nice guy, and a good athlete. He ended up going out with my friends after the fight and taught them the Melbourne shuffle! I wasn’t there because I did my normal post-fight routine of just relaxing, but my training buddies still talk about how cool he was.


Your fights were conducted according to Oriental rules until 2009, when you began to fight under full Thai rules. How did you find the transition?

I have always fought Oriental rules, actually. I’ve trained for two or three Muay Thai fights, but they all fell through. I enjoyed training with elbows and especially clinching, but now I like to focus on GLORY rules because they gave me a great opportunity to be a part of their organization.

You took 2012 off. Was there any specific reason, or did you simply feel you needed the rest?

I actually fought once in 2012. It was in September, against Lerdsila Chumpairtour at the K-1 event in L.A. It’s been very difficult for me to be a very active fighter; not many people wanted to fly me in to fight their local champions and it took a while to be noticed by GLORY. But that one fight in 2012 was enough, because it helped get me recognized outside of Canada.

K-1 signed you for a time. How did you find them as an organization?

I was so excited about signing with K-1 but after my one fight, things started to unravel with the new owners. After two different six-week training camps that both resulted in fights being cancelled, I decided to move on.

How do you find fighting for Glory? What are they like to deal with?

GLORY are fantastic. They are extremely professional, their events run smoothly and most importantly, they have a roster of elite fighters. I plan to keep fighting with them and help the featherweight division grow.

You are now the Glory featherweight world champ. Where to from here?

I’m planning on a couple of title defenses each year. But only one for this year. I also want to start boxing. I’ve always worked with the boxers in town when I had a fight coming up and I’d like to try using those skills without kicks.

What does your partner think? Does she come to watch you fight?

I don’t have my girlfriend come to watch events. She is extremely supportive and would like to come, but at the end of the day it’s all about making sure I’m completely focused on the fight and I don’t think I would be if she was there. I have a way of doing things before fights and I only need my few corner men there to feel focused.

What’s the kickboxing scene like in Canada?

It’s actually quite vibrant. Every city has many kickboxing gyms and there are quite a few fight cards. The one problem it’s facing is a number of provinces haven’t legalized professional kickboxing. As a result, building a professional record is very difficult.

But we have five or six kickboxers who are very good. Just within GLORY, there are two champions; myself and Joeseph Valtellini at Welterweight. One of my sparring partners from Vancouver, Josh Jauncey, is ranked ninth at 154lbs and Simon Marcus is ranked number one behind Artem Levin at Middleweight. We’ve all been building interest in kickboxing within Canada and it’s fantastic to see.


Your brother Aaron is your trainer. What’s it like training with family? Does it ever get tense when you’re fighting?

Aaron used to train but now only helps me when I have a fight approaching. We used to have some pretty good battles during sparring but he doesn’t bother with that and I don’t want to ask him to spar when he’s not training much.

But my other brother, Jacob, who’s twenty-two, is an amateur boxer. He has more fights than me now and is really good. I think he will have a great career and he is one of the most challenging guys I spar with. We definitely try to keep things fast and light when we spar but quite often that doesn’t last long. Fortunately, we try to take care of each other when we spar and we haven’t had too many mishaps.

You seem to have moved around quite a bit during the course of your life, even spending time in Australia. Why did your family move around so much?

My Father liked to buy real estate in weak markets and sometimes we would relocate as a result. We also moved a few times for his job as a helicopter pilot. Our move to Australia and New Zealand was a six-month vacation.

My parents liked both countries so much we almost moved there, but extended family kept us in Canada. I’m really looking forward to travelling back to Australia in the future. Perhaps I can do a couple seminars while I’m there and make a work/vacation out of it.

What are your recollections of Australia?

I was only twelve during our visit but I have great memories of surfing! We were home- schooling at the time and that gave us the opportunity to be at the beach two or three hours a day. And I remember really enjoying the scenery. We were at Noosa Heads most of the time and it was beautiful there.

Who was your toughest opponent?

Hmmm. Kubo was difficult because of his unorthodox style and the fact it was my first time fighting twice in one night. Also, I was a bit nervous to be fighting the number one fighter at sixty-five kilos. I wasn’t sure how good he would be. After the second round I realized he wasn’t as good as I thought, but I wasn’t willing to fight one hundred per cent because I’d already accomplished my one goal for the evening, which was winning my quarter-final fight.

When I fought Amrani I knew I’d have a difficult fight and even though it was hard, I had imagined something even more challenging.

On my fifth fight, I fought a strong, muscular opponent that chopped my leg hard and utilized the clinch well while throwing hard knees. I had to dig down very deep to fight back for five rounds and ignore the thigh pain.

In the end I gave him two eight counts and won three of the five rounds, but I couldn’t walk properly for a few days after. That was the most difficult fight I had.


Do you have any interest in MMA?

I’m a little torn between MMA and boxing. I’d like to pursue one of them while I continue kickboxing. I really like training boxing, but I don’t really enjoy ground-work. I think that will lead me to try boxing before opting to sign a contract with Bellator.

Are you a full-time pro fighter? Do you have to work? If so, what do you do?

I do train full time but I also teach children’s martial arts. I’ve been running a couple of programs in Victoria [Canada] for over a decade now and I really enjoy it. Once I’m done with my professional fight career I’ll most likely have a martial arts gym that I teach at full time.

You’re a classically trained pianist. How did you get into that? Do you play much now?

Like I mentioned before, my Dad told us we had to get our black belts. We also had to play an instrument; we had a piano at home, so that’s what I decided to learn. I still have the piano at my place but I only play about once a week for 20 minutes.

Do you have musical ambitions, also?

I would like to learn to play another instrument at some point, but just for fun. I’m thinking either the saxophone or the harmonica. I thought that would probably be something for after my fight career, but if I can start getting paid well in GLORY and build a boxing record and get some good money there, I’ll start taking lessons soon.

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