He’s a small-town kid living big-city dreams.
That’s how 30-year-old professional mixed martial artist Gurdarshan ‘Saint Lion’ Mangat, or Gary, as he likes to be called, formerly of Williams Lake feels about his rise to success in the sport.
Currently on a six-fight winning streak, Mangat — whose parents and brother still live in the lakecity — is coming off his most recent victory late last month in Mumbai, India over Abdul Muneer at Brave Combat Federation’s Brave 5: Go for Glory.
Currently training out of Vancouver and Seattle, Mangat is affiliated with Revolution Fight Team and 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu and works with the likes of UFC Flyweight Champion Demetrious Johnson — considered the best pound-for-pound fighter on the planet — and Bibiano Fernandes, the current ONE Bantamweight Champion.
Mangat, meanwhile, has amassed a 10-win, one-loss professional record since his pro debut in 2011.
“My last opponent, he had won the 2016 Indian fighter of the year award. Him being from there, and with all the animosity and how it all escalated leading up to the fights, it turned into one of the biggest fights in Indian MMA history,” Mangat told the Tribune.
“I want to prove I am the number one pound-for-pound Indian fighter out there. I moved up two weight classes for the fight. I was 137 pounds against a guy that was 165 pound on the day. He was big.”
Mangat won a three-round unanimous decision and said he battled through adversity after he got food poisoning two days before the fight.
“I make sure I train so I can be my best, even on my worst day,” he said.
“That was a pretty bad situation that happened, but the training spoke for itself.”
His second fight in India, Mangat said it’s an incredible experience fighting there.
“It was crazy,” he said. “It’s a whole different vibe there. The fans and the people. The emotion and intensity and just fighting in India and, after I won people just crashed my change room, showed up at the hotel — it became something totally different. I love fighting out there. It’s almost like they thank you for doing what you’ve done, and that the success you’ve gained is their own, so that was really cool.”
Through his success, however, Mangat manages to stay grounded. He said he takes great pride in growing up in Williams Lake and remembering his childhood. After graduating from Columneetza Mangat moved to the Lower Mainland where he obtained a degree as a Certified General Accountant. When he discovered the sport of mixed martial arts his career path changed, and Mangat adopted a no-fail approach in his training.
“The one thing I’ve gained strength from is my small-town roots,” he said.
“We come up as dreamers and move to the big city and, whether if you’re from small towns or big cities, I want people to realize if you want to chase something it’s not about being a part of the environment it’s about the environment becoming a part of yourself.”
He pointed to all of the high-level athletes who’ve come out of Williams Lake such as Kayla Moleschi and Carey Price as prime examples of what can be achieved.
“There’s a lot of hidden talent there,” he said.
“My family still lives there and, you know what? I’m very grateful I’m a small-town kid living a big-city dream and that allows me to not give up on what I’m doing.”
As for what’s next for Mangat, he said he’s going to continue training hard to continue to prove he’s the best Indian fighter in the world.
“The goal is to always make the UFC but there’s a lot of opportunity over there (in India),” he said.
“The person who owns it (Brave Combat Federation) is the Prince of Bahrain so there’s a lot of money over there. At the end of the day you want to make history but you also want to take care of yourself. I do want to fight in the UFC one day, but wherever I’m making history is what I’m all about right now.”
Mangat added he’d like to give a big shout out to his brother, Rajan, and his mom and dad for all their support.
“Thanks to them for never letting me forget my roots,” he said.
Rajan, meanwhile, said having a brother competing in the sport of mixed martial arts is one of the hardest things to witness, but also one of the most inspiring.
“Seeing your brother go through all the sacrifices and pain just to reach his goals and fulfill his dreams proves to me that if you work hard you can achieve anything,” Rajan said.
“This past fight in India, I know how badly he wanted it so when he won it gave me emotions I can’t even describe.
“He’s stayed true to his dream through all the struggle that has come with it and that is the most inspiring thing to me. I’m very proud of him.”