Lilian Garcia: “I can’t speak highly enough of the PFL.”

Lilian Garcia: “I can’t speak highly enough of the PFL.”

There has been much sadness in this pandemic hit time, a year of heartache, frustration and lost opportunities. Virtually every single person on the planet has suffered in some way either marginally or in a much deeper meaningful manner. Lilian Garcia has suffered professionally and personally over these difficult months:

“It has been up and down like everybody else. We have had to move a couple of times, which was very interesting, to say the least in the middle of a pandemic, and then my mother got seriously ill. It is just the sheer sadness that you can just feel in the air, I am a positive person so I am trying to turn those moments into something positive and get learning lessons from them, which I have. But sometimes in the moment, it is hard to see the bigger picture.”

Garcia has had an extensive and varied career, she started singing as a child while she lived in Spain. When the family moved to America, Garcia continued to sing. Early gigs in her teens developed into something more, but Garcia is better known for being the long-time ring announcer in the WWE, starting out on that journey in 1999. But life can take many twists and turns, in May 2019 Garcia announced she was entering a new world. The Professional Fighters League came calling:

“I found out through a friend of mine, someone I used to do a Podcast with. He told me the PFL are looking for you, I said who, what are you talking about. He said they are an MMA organisation, the Professional Fighters League and are a legitimate organisation and I really think you should accept the call. So I called and met up with them and instantly fell in love with them, and from there it took off, they took a chance on me. From the off they set me up to win, they put me to work with Josh Fowler and he is so great to work with, he just prepares you in a way so you know you are fully prepared when you go in that cage. It was a win-win for me and I can’t speak highly enough of the PFL from what they are trying to do.”

After being involved in season two of the PFL league format, the pandemic hit and everything, including the PFL stopped. But as the world slowly starts turning again, the PFL is back later this month with season three, and Garcia couldn’t be happier:

“I am so excited about the PFL starting up again. That was the other sad thing about last year, losing the opportunity to build on my first season with the PFL and continue that, but then suddenly everything came to a halt and the whole season was cancelled. It is just exciting that after a year of waiting it is finally happening.”

The PFL stands out from the competition because of its season type format. Points are scored for wins, submissions and knockouts in order to qualify for the playoffs before they get a chance to compete for the million-dollar pot of gold in the season finale:

“I love the whole concept, the regular season, playoffs, to follow a fighter’s journey that is what I am all about. It is similar to my Chasing Glory Podcast, where you follow someone’s chase for glory, and it is the same in the PFL, you follow their chase and what they are trying to obtain and it makes it super interesting and it is very professionally run.”

Garcia has that WWE background, where the theatre and larger than life characters create its own very unique setting. MMA has similar traits where the storyline of a fight plays out using all the different attributes and styles a fighter needs to compete in the unforgiving world of mixed martial arts. There are certain if fragile similarities in the two worlds Garcia is involved in, and she has gone from a casual fan to now having a far greater appreciation of MMA:

“I was a casual fan for sure, I watched Brock Lesnar, Conor McGregor, Ronda Rousey, I love all combat sports. I have stayed in the wrestling world for 15 years or more for a reason. I love seeing the athleticism and seeing all the different disciplines of MMA, be it wrestling, judo, boxing etc, and seeing it put together in a combo and seeing it all put together in a fight is incredible. For sure I have a different appreciation now. I have the best seat in the house, to see how they use all the different styles, how they all get incorporated, that’s making me a real big fan of MMA.”

There are always hidden stories behind a person’s usual daily life. Garcia had initial thoughts of a career in journalism before a change in direction that would eventually lead to her long run in the WWE. But the early desires were never far away, an idea ahead of its time would eventually morph into a highly successful Podcast called Chasing Glory, but it was 12 years in the making:

“I did study journalism in college but I didn’t end up majoring in it. I majored in media arts. It was a Dean who gave me the best advice, he said if you love being in front of the camera so much learn everything behind the camera. So I learned how to direct, produce, film, photography, voice-over, how to edit video and audio, I learned everything behind the scenes and that has been so helpful for me. I always love learning about someone’s life and so in 2004 being in the locker room with a lot of the WWE female superstars and sharing our lives and journeys and I felt if the fans knew what they have been through in their lives and how they got there then I think they could identify with them more. I actually presented the idea to the WWE back in 2004 but this was before they had any social media platform they only had the website so it was really ahead of its time.”

Chasing Glory finally found its rightful time and place, but only out of sadness and heartbreak. Watching Garcia express emotion and passion in our Zoom interview you could see what the Podcast means to her. It is hard to tell if doing it is some kind of therapy for her, her thoughts elsewhere when exploring the lives of others, but it clearly has a very special emotional place in her heart:

“So in 2016 when I left the WWE to look after my Dad, he was the one who said to me he didn’t want me to sit just watching him die, what ideas do you have because he felt awful because I had to leave the WWE. I told him about the idea I had back in 2004 and he loved it and said you should run with it. So I started doing my Podcast and started doing human interest stories on the WWE superstars and that just snowballed into what Chasing Glory is today. I really have to say thank you to the superstars for trusting me and opening up like they never have before, opening up in so many ways and like some of them have said, telling things which they thought they would take to their graves. But I see now it is very helpful to them and the fans have now formed a bond with the superstars and seeing them in a different light. It also gives them hope in whatever they are going through or dealing with in their lives, it doesn’t have to define them or stop them from succeeding in life, the more we talk about things like this the better. I am just really proud where Chasing Glory is today.”

There is always that pet hate of mine, what I would call lazy journalism, sticking to a well-trodden path, the same questions in search of maximising clicks. Originality is hard to find sometimes, and even that natural flow of a conversation you rarely find. Garcia prepares for her interviews but the chat tends to flow naturally and develop from there, digging deep but carefully to find the real person in front of her:

“I look into the background of the superstars, whatever I can find online, and those things trigger something I think I would love to know more about that. But to be honest it is an authentic conversation, something they may say and I will ask them a little bit more about that. Then we go down this beautiful journey, this beautiful path and a lot gets revealed because I think they feel so comfortable talking to me. At the end of it, when we hit cut, I always think wow, that was so beautiful I can’t thank you enough for opening up to me. I can also look at them differently, I have a load more respect and understanding of their journey.”

Garcia has done a similar theme within the PFL interviewing the likes of Lance Palmer, John Howard and the PFL ring girls, for their Prep Point series, and she has equal passion when talking about getting to know the MMA stars, exploring the mentality of an MMA fighter, trying to understand what makes a fighter switch from fighter to an every day normal human being. Garcia understands that every person has a story to tell, and clearly loves telling the story of the people she interviews.

The long twisting career of Garcia has taken many turns, a return to singing with a new single is imminent, asking for a personal highlight of her varied journey would to many with a similar extensive run would be difficult. But Garcia without hesitation picks out one moment that stands out:

“It was a high because it was memorable and emotional, singing the National Anthem two days after 9/11 live on WWE Smackdown. That moment, being the person to be asked to sing the National Anthem a few days after those terrible attacks, and thinking wow, this a moment to try and get the country together again. Seeing all those signs, all the superstars lined up on the ramp and there I was with no music just signing the National Anthem acapella, I was born on an Army base, I know what this country means to me. That was a moment I will never forget, at the end when people were chanting USA, and even today they tell me they remember that moment.”

Garcia was going through her own personal trauma at the time of that Smackdown episode, on top of the obvious emotions of that awful moment in time:

“I was living in New York at the time so everything was very fresh for me. My ex-husband was on his way to the Twin Towers for a meeting, but he was late because of his co-worker. I am so grateful his co-worker was late, so I was living through all of that, knowing that my husband of the time could have been in the towers at the time of the attacks, it was tough.”

It is difficult to know when or even if the world will ever revert to the old normal, but with the imminent return of fans elsewhere in the MMA world, things are looking up, the world is turning again. Garcia can look forward to her MMA journey starting once more, and along with Chasing Glory now being on the WWE network, her signing career also being reignited, Garcia has plenty to be optimistic about in her life.

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