At Batcave Kickboxing in Stevenson Ranch, the topic of conversation switches to fishing.
“He likes to fish,” coach German Baltazar said of Israel Galvan, one of his fighters.
“And we eat them,” said Galvan’s father and manager, Josh, with a smile.
Galvan puts in his two cents, saying he fishes off of Ventura Pier and several other locations that aren’t exactly meant for fishing. But regardless of where he casts his line, it’s done with purpose.
“His life right now revolves around fighting,” Baltazar said. “It’s not like he’s out there pursuing anything other than this and that’s what we’re looking for when you’re trying to help somebody get to where they want.”
The 18-year-old Galvan is angling for more than just fish. When it comes to fighting, MMA in particular, he’s striving for a contract with the UFC and eventually a title.
He’s been training in MMA for a year and a half, but has bounced between jiu-jitsu, boxing and kickboxing since his early teens. It began with boxing, but his dad pulled him from the sport and put him in soccer, thinking it was a safer option for his naturally aggressive son.
When Galvan’s older brother began kickboxing, however, Josh couldn’t keep his younger son away from combat sports.
“He was having fun and I was a little jealous,” Galvan said. “I’m a fighter, I like fighting and so I asked my dad if I could go and he’s like ‘Yeah, sure I’ll take you,’ and that’s how it started. Everybody, my coach, he told me, he’s like, ‘You could be someone one day in this sport’ and it just took off from there with kickboxing.”
From that point, Galvan began searching for a gym that was the right fit for him. He trained at some that wanted to build him up for notoriety and a few others that he was just too advanced for, according to Josh.
He even wrestled for Valencia High School and trained at Peterson Grapplers after a stint at the now-defunct Big John McCarthy’s.
Two years ago, Galvan was introduced to Baltazar, a former professional MMA fighter and kickboxer.
“When he came here to train and with a little bit of sparring, he was already aggressive off the bat and that’s what you want to see out of a fighter,” Baltazar said. “It was a good first impression actually training with him.”
More than anything, Baltazar said he recognized ambition in Galvan, who also works on grappling at S.K. Golden Boys in North Hollywood. His drive prompted him to suggest training for the 2019 IMMAF-WMMAA Pan American Open Championships in Nassau, Bahamas.
“They asked me if I had anybody that had the potential of winning at this tournament,” Baltazar said. ‘I said ‘Yeah, I got a kid.’”
There was a potential that Galvan had to weigh in and compete three days in a row with two to three hours between weigh-ins and the fight itself.
Galvan fought twice and won both times to secure a gold medal. He was the only American to take gold at the tournament.
“I trained really hard for it, I’m like, this is a big deal. The only person in the United States that has this gold medal is me right now, but before I was like, I can be the only person,” Galvan said. “But I trained so hard for it and so I didn’t get tired at all. Even if it was like, my worst day I wasn’t going to get tired.”
The gold medal only confirmed Galvan’s goals and set him up with confidence for future fights and tournaments. This weekend, he’ll compete in an exhibition match in Barcelona, Spain. Later this year, he’ll travel to Bahrain for the IMMAF-WMMAA World Championships.
He brings a 4-1-0 amateur record into Barcelona, with two wins by way of knockout and two more by unanimous decision. Galvan says he’s a grappler at heart, but Baltazar says his striking is coming along well along with his jiu-jitsu to create a quality fighting style.
“Controlled violence,” Baltazar said. “It’s not just wild, it’s technical and they hit hard and it’s an aggressive style.”
It’s a style all his own, and something it seems Galvan has been destined to develop since he first gloved up years ago.
“Everything he did that had to do with combat, it’s like you threw a fish in water,” Josh said.
The hopes of hooking a professional contract turn closer and closer to reality as Galvan keeps on swimming.