Christos Giagos is in a good mood. And why wouldn’t he be? The 33-year-old lightweight snapped a two-fight losing streak in April by delivering his best UFC effort to date – a 95-second knockout of Ricky Glenn – and that certainly makes the training camp for his Saturday bout against Daniel Zellhuber a lot more pleasant.
That and freezing in the middle of South Florida on a daily basis.
“I've been doing the cold plunge every day and that has significantly changed my mood,” he said. “No joke. That's probably the biggest benefit I find from it. I've been feeling super calm, super motivated, and my body's been feeling good. It's been putting me in such a good mood.”
That doesn’t sound fun at all. Add in his tendency to throw some liver into his diet, and it’s amazing that Giagos is so upbeat.
“I feel like putting yourself through misery is a good thing, I think,” he laughs. “And suffering becomes happiness.”
As for the mental aftermath of coming off his most important win to date, he says, “You got a lot of stress laid off you. You're coming off a big win, but now you got the stress of keeping it going. It's a new type of stress, but it's okay. Stress is a good thing. And I feel really good in this camp. I have a lot of confidence and I’m definitely going to be trusting these hands a lot more, so that's good.”
If it sounds like everything is coming together for the California native more than 13 years after his pro debut, it sure seems like it. But he wouldn’t change the ups, downs or sideways of his journey for anything.
“I don't know if I believe everything happens for a reason, but I do believe everybody has their own story and their own journey and they learn the way they learn,” Giagos said. “I wish I could have gone to the gym a little sooner, but maybe I wouldn't have known my wife, so maybe things wouldn't have gone as good as they're going. So I feel like everything happens the way it's supposed to happen for everybody's own individual story. And I love my story. It's a true warrior story and I'll stick with it. I like having battles. I like the ups and downs because the downs make you who you are. So I wouldn't change it.”
That’s maturity right there, and when you add in that his striking is catching up to his ground game, making him dangerous everywhere a fight goes, Giagos’ story is about to get a lot more interesting, especially if he beats Zellhuber, a hot prospect from Mexico looking for a veteran name to add to his list of wins. Giagos remembers what it was like to be 24 years old in the UFC and ready for the world.
“I had just got signed by the UFC the first time when I was 24, and I was very inexperienced, but I knew I was tough,” he said. “That's pretty much the biggest thing I had going for me was just being tough. My Fight IQ probably wasn't as good as it is now and I was just learning about the sport, how to deal with fights, the pressure, and everything got so much better with time. But back then, I was a little wild and I let the adrenaline get the best of me most of the time in fights.”
During Giagos’ first stay in the UFC in 2014-15, he went 1-2 with a win over Jorge de Oliveira that was sandwiched by losses to Gilbert Burns and Chris Wade. Zellhuber got off to a 1-1 start in the Octagon after earning a contract on Dana White’s Contender Series in 2021, and Giagos believes he has a good read on the “Golden Boy” heading into this weekend’s bout.
“I like to step into my opponent's shoes,” said Giagos. “He's 24, he's newer to the UFC, got some hype and he's probably getting some nerves. I'm probably one of the most experienced fighters he’s fought, though Lando (Vanatta) is pretty experienced, and I'm going to take the fight to him and hopefully he has an adrenaline dump. He may not know how to control it yet, but we'll see. I'm not banking on anything.”
In this game, that’s probably the greatest lesson Giagos has learned, that’s there’s no such thing as a sure thing when two fighters are locked in an Octagon together. And with that knowledge, Giagos has gone from a kid who was just happy to be here, to a fighter with new goals that he’ll start chopping at in Las Vegas on Saturday.
“I'm glad I made it this far,” he said, “I was somebody who just wanted to be in the UFC. I didn't care about being a champion. I just wanted to be able to say that I'm playing with the best, and if I got caught, who cares? I didn't care. I made it a lot further than I ever dreamed I would. And now it's time to make new goals, new plans, and now I'm looking at the Top 15 as a possibility and I'm shooting for that. That's my next goal. I'm very blessed, very happy with everything that's happened. And the story's not over yet, so we have more ups and more downs to go, but hopefully more ups.”
UFC Fight Night: Grasso vs Shevchenko 2 took place live from T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada on September 16, 2023. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!