In the MMA bubble, that guaranteed Garry would see equal parts love and hate from the public as he climbed the welterweight ranks. What he didn’t anticipate, however, was that his family would become targets along the way. He definitely didn’t foresee that attacks directed at his wife, Layla Machado Garry, would outpace the ones directed at him and elevate their profiles for largely dubious reasons.
The significant others of the sport’s most famous and prolific trash-talkers — Conor McGregor and Chael Sonnen — have received but a fraction of the recent interest directed toward Garry’s relationship, his partner, and his child. Fans and fighters have accused Layla Machado Garry of preying on her husband and his fame, citing a how-to book she wrote on meeting famous athletes that she said was satire. It’s been one of the more bizarre and toxic subplots in recent MMA history, and Garry has seen the worst of it.
“I feel like a lot of people are sheep, and a lot of people believe some ridiculous things online and they run with it, and then a lot of a lot gets, kind of, Chinese whispers taken out of context, and a lot of people don’t understand my personal life, or anything to do with it, or anything to do with me, my family, and my team,” Garry said on The MMA Hour. “They’ve just heard whispers and rumors, and the truth is people love to hate. The internet, Instagram, Twitter, all of it is a very toxic place, and especially MMA media. Ninety-nine of it is very toxic. One minute they love you, the next minute they hate you. We’ve seen it. The hate is ridiculous, the love is amazing.
“So I think it might have all come my way because of my success, and my rise, and everything I’m doing, and people either love it, or they hate it. Either way, they giving me content and tuning into my flights.”
Even if the reactions are expected and might eventually benefit Team Garry, it doesn’t change their immediate impact. Layla Machado Garry and their son didn’t sign up to be the subject of so much negative attention, and he couldn’t shield them from it.
“It f****** stung,” he said. “It’s stung on a level of … I’ve agreed — not really agreed to — but I don’t mind. I’m in the fight game. It’s my job, it’s my passion, and it’s part of the game. You build the fight yourself, but you have to perform.
“But when people start attacking my loved ones with vicious, vile, untrue, and hurtful words to an obsessive level, it boils my blood, and it boiled my blood to an extent of which I have to be the bigger man and not respond until I have the opportunity to respond, which was at UFC 296.”
Fighting is the critical part of Garry’s playbook; for whatever is said about he and his family, he knows that he gets the chance to respond in the cage. That’s why not fighting at this past December’s pay-per-view event such was a devastating blow; a bout of pneumonia forced him to withdraw just as fighters like Colby Covington and Sean Strickland were drawing headlines attacking the Garrys.
The positive, Garry said, is that his family has had more time to work through things.
“It’s tough,” he said. “At first, it was — it was upsetting, it was hurtful. It was difficult, just by the sheer amount and obsessive, like, the number of which people were attacking us — it’s just the constant, constant notifications of people talking s*** and people posting videos, and all of this nonsense.
“But now, I mean, now we’ve come out of this stronger, knowing that the truth is the people that don’t eat at our table — if you’re not at our table, and you don’t eat at our table, then it’s irrelevant what people say online. The people that are around me, the team, I’ve surrounded myself — I love and adore my wife. I chose to be with her because she is the most inspirational person I’ve ever met, and I want her by my side until the very f****** end of my life, and that’s my choice. I don’t care about other people’s opinions about what I do in my life. That’s my decision, and I think that we’re having a conversation about some people talking about who I should and shouldn’t be with is absolutely ridiculous. Keep your opinions to yourself, and let me be me, and you do you.
“So me and Layla are better off from it now. But absolutely, we were hurt at the start. But we’re very grateful to be in a position that we can grow from something so toxic.”
“I’m someone who will kind of forget all about it. I don’t want to hear about it,” he added later. “I don’t care about it. But then Layla is like, ‘No, we need to talk about this, we need to talk through it, because talking through it will eventually enable us to get over it better together,’ and that’s what we ended up doing. We ended up sitting down and talking about it and understanding why I was upset, why she was hurting and dealing with it, and that’s why we have been able to come out of this zone.”
Garry draws a line between the trash talk he’s done in promoting fights and the kind that’s come at him in the past several months. There’s a difference, he said, between pointing out your opponent’s past, or an opponent’s statement, and taking aim at third parties who have nothing to do with the fight. So he doesn’t accept the argument that because he chooses to promote fights with trash talk that he should accept the repercussions of that in whatever form they take.
In the case of Geoff Neal and a t-shirt displaying his mugshot, Garry argues that was fair game because his would-be opponent did get busted for DUI. With opponent Neil Magny, Garry said he was simply pointing out the veteran welterweight’s own comments about striking his children (a diatribe that Magny later said had real-life effects far worse than his loss to the Irish star).
“My job is promoting my fight to the best level I can, to show up and have the most fun fight I can,” Garry said. “I’m not viciously assaulting and attacking people’s families in any way, shape, or form, to the way that the MMA world is going at a very toxic level. I mean, the best example is — he’s an absolute piece of s*** for doing this — but it’s a perfect example; you’ve got someone like Colby Covington, who isn’t trash-talking — he’s desperate, to the point that he mentioned a person’s father’s murder to sell a fight. He used that sore point in someone’s life to try to stay relevant, to try to win a mental battle.
“That’s the point in MMA where we’re at, and then we’ve got people like Sean Strickland, who are talking all that nastiness online, attacking people’s families and people’s wives, and the truth is, he is just someone who is dealing with his childhood trauma, the hurt and the pain from his past, and projecting it to the world. I am not that. I am selling a fight, and having fun in my life, and that’s it. I’m a disruptor, just like Jake Paul and Logan Paul and Conor McGregor, and all of the best biggest stars in the world are disrupters. But there is a fine line.”