Approaching his one-month wedding anniversary, Christos Giagos is putting thoughts of a honeymoon aside to get back to work on Saturday in Houston, and he can’t wait to throw hands with Sean Soriano.
“I'm excited to get more eyes on me, show everybody what I've been working on, and I'm very excited to go to a state where it's open,” said Giagos, who lost his original opponent, Joel Alvarez, before Soriano stepped in to make sure this lightweight battle came together.
And while a late change in opponent is never ideal, Giagos has learned over the years that he doesn’t mind switching things up at the last minute, whether that means a new foe standing across from him on fight night or taking a bout on short notice, like he did a week before Christmas when he agreed to face Carlton Minus on three days’ notice.
“They both have different levels of anxiety, but for me it's worse having a longer camp because you have more time to think about it, more time to psyche yourself out and, plus, there's no excuse; you had a full camp,” he said. “(Against Minus) I had everything to gain and not a whole lot to lose, but it is scary. Am I in shape enough, did I train hard enough, have I got what I needed to get done? There are different types of battles in those situations, but I would rather take fights on three, four weeks' notice. I like to stay in shape year-round and the less camp there is, the less you think about.”
Three days is as small of a camp as you can imagine, but Giagos was ready for the call…and the fight last December.
“I was training like I was gonna take a short notice fight,” he said of his late-2020 mindset after he had been sidelined since August 2019 due to neck surgery. “And I loved the style (matchup), so I was like, ‘Hey, let's go.’ I wanted to get one in before the end of the year and I want to buy a house this year, so it was a big blessing that came to me.”
Three rounds with Minus later, and Giagos had his fourth UFC victory. It was a satisfying win, making him 3-1 in his last four and he finally has some traction in one of the sport’s toughest divisions. And as he gets ready for Soriano, it feels like everything is coming together for the 31-year-old.
“I'm still learning all the time and making adjustments every fight,” he said. “You always make some mistakes and there's always room to grow, so I feel like things are clicking, but I still feel like I'm just touching the surface. There's still a lot of things I'm dealing with in the fight with anxiety and stuff - nothing bad, but I'm a lot better in the gym a lot of times and I don't get to show that a whole lot because going into the fight I feel like I hold back and sometimes I play it safe and sometimes I go too hard. So it's learning how to control that and just being myself in there, and it's happening more and more. I got to really showcase my ground a little bit my last fight, even though I passed up a couple submissions, but taking it on three days' notice is a whole other battle mentally, so it's learning how to control the emotions and anxiety. It's crazy, taking it on three days' notice, and knowing I can go through it definitely helps, so training with a full camp, if I can pace myself and be explosive when I need to be, that's the whole battle, learning how to control my power when I need to and not throw a hundred percent with everything I do.”
It goes without saying that this sport is not easy, especially with a million ways to win and a million ways to lose. One wrong move, and a fighter could be tapping or napping, and when you add a rigorous training schedule to the mix before having to perform in front of an arena full of fans again, it can all add up and sometimes become overwhelming. But 26 fights into a pro career that began in 2010, Giagos is getting it.
And as far as dealing with everything that comes along with being a prizefighter, Giagos now has his new bride Victoria ready to go into battle with him. Then again, after seven years together, she already knows what she was getting into by marrying a fighter. The question is, how does she react on fight night? Is she screaming and cheering or hiding her eyes?
“A little bit of both,” he laughs. “It depends on what's going on in the fight. If I'm kicking ass, she's the girl screaming and yelling, and if it's not looking so good, she's the one with her hands over her face and scared and nervous. But she watches it, she gets pumped up, she gets nervous, and she is my biggest supporter.”
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Remember what I said about the sport not being easy? Well, it may be easier for those in the Octagon than the significant others stuck outside the gate. Giagos knows this, but he appreciates that his lady hasn’t tried to steer him away from the fight game.
“Listen, my mom still hasn't watched one of my fights live to this day, 26 fights later, so I get it,” he said. “It's nerve-racking, and I couldn't imagine what she goes through, but she loves this, she knows that I love it, and she's my biggest supporter. She'll tell me, 'You gotta go after it, you gotta go get it.' She never asked me to find something else, she supports me in what I do, and I love her for that.”
Now “The Spartan” will bring his shield to Houston and he’s ready to go to war because that new house won’t buy itself. And if he does win this weekend to make it four wins in five bouts, he’s thinking of more than house hunting. He’s got belt hunting on his mind.
“I feel like we have the most stacked division in the UFC, so I want to take a crack at the Top 15 and then go from there,” said Giagos. “I fought Josh Emmett, Gilbert Burns and Charles Oliveira and I didn't do super bad. I actually beat Charles Oliveira in the first round, then got submitted in the second, so I definitely showed I can compete with these guys. Josh, to this day, says I'm one of the hardest hitters and toughest guys that he's fought, and these are guys in the Top 5, so I know I can hang with them; it's just pulling the trigger when it's showtime.”
There it is – Giagos knows exactly what he needs to do, and he’s prepared to do it. It’s not just showtime; he believes it’s his time.
“I never stopped trying,” he said of his MMA journey. “I could have easily made excuses and stopped, but I never stopped. And it makes it that much sweeter when you don't stop and then you start seeing things go your way. It's more earned as well. There's nothing lucky about what I've gone through.”