UFC 303: Ian Machado Garry says Michael Page has spent the majority of his career fighting 'nobodies'

Stop me if you’ve heard this one: A brash young Irishman rises through the MMA ranks to become a known man in the UFC while critics take their shots from afar and fans wait to see just how far the man’s particular skill set can take him.

No, it’s not that other guy, the one who was supposed to headline UFC 303. Conor McGregor’s comeback plans were undone by a broken toe. Ian Machado Garry, however, is still on track to face Michael “Venom” Page on the undercard Saturday, and he’s doing his best to deliver some verbal entertainment prior to the fight.

For instance, his thoughts on the UFC’s selection of Page as his opponent?

“I thought, f***, I wanted to fight someone up in the rankings,” Garry said. “I wanted to fight someone who's going to get me closer towards that world title shot. I have no interest in fighting [Page]. And still to this day I don’t.”

Then there’s the topic of his preferred opponent, Colby Covington, whom Garry called out in the cage after his victory over Geoff Neal in February.

“I know the UFC wanted the fight,” Garry said. “I had back-and-back conversations with them. Like, tell him to pull the finger out. Tell him to get ready. He has to fight. But the truth is, Colby's afraid. He doesn't want to fight me. I'm that young, talented prospect that when I beat him, it's the end of his career. He wants none of that. He wants to stay relevant on Instagram and hold his spot in the rankings by just talking. That's it.”

This kind of media presence, along with his 14-0 record as a professional, has been enough to make Garry into a known man within the UFC. Fans know him and remember him. When he gets added to a fight card, it’s news.

But that particular spotlight also comes with some heat. Garry has become a favorite target for fighters like Covington and Sean Strickland, both of whom seized on a somewhat satirical 2012 work titled “How To Be A Wag,” written by Garry’s wife, Layla Machado Garry, and used it as ammunition against the 26-year-old fighter. Even now, one of the suggested topics when you search his name online is “what is the story with Ian Garry’s wife?” It got to the point where, prior to his last scheduled fight, Garry expressed concern about the safety of his family in traveling to the U.S. for the event.

This is one of the tricky parts about becoming a known man in a sport like MMA. Making people care is a good and necessary thing, but it also courts opinions on any and every aspect of your life, whether they’re well-founded or not.

“I wish people knew the truth rather than lies,” Garry said. “The truth is people don't know the truth. People were fed lies and facts that were not true, and people had not done their research. And these people spread and spread and talked and talked, but not one person ever done their research or connected to me and talked to me or my team about these rumors. So I just wish people knew more of the truth. And who gives a f*** about other people's personal lives?”

Now, headed into his eighth UFC fight, Garry’s career feels like it’s tiptoeing up to a precipice. The opponents get tougher and more well-known. The spotlight gets both brighter and hotter. The expectations are higher. When you’re carrying around an undefeated record, especially in a sport where those are so very rare, there’s a pressure to keep that momentum going. And now that he’s broken into the welterweight top 10, there are fewer and fewer people standing between Garry and a UFC title shot.

Page (22-2, 13 KOs) might be lower down the rankings and newer to the UFC, but he’s also a tricky challenge. Tall and lanky, with an unpredictable and unconventional style, he made even a seasoned veteran like Kevin Holland look lost in Page's UFC debut. Trying to figure that man out inside of three rounds has proven frustrating for a lot of people. When he gets to do his stuff, he also has the ability to put opponents on the business end of a highlight.

Then again, according to Garry, those are only the opponents who aren’t very good to begin with.

“The truth is, he has fought the majority of his career against nobodies,” Garry said. “And he has come out with some beautiful knockouts and some beautiful performances against these people who are nowhere near the caliber that he has. MVP is phenomenal at what MVP does, and he can freeze people. These people never deserved to be in the Octagon. They never deserved to be in the ring with him in the first place.”

Garry, on the other hand? There’s every indication so far that maybe he does deserve it. And if you ask him, he’ll gladly tell you he deserves much more. He’s at least succeeded in getting our attention. Now comes the part where he has to demonstrate why he should keep it.