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Diego Garijo is a passionate mixed martial artist.
He also happens to have an incredible passion for drag too.
In a fascinating interview with VICE Germany, the 41-year-old opened up on what it's like juggling his infatuation for punching people in the face with his love of becoming a glamorous drag queen named Lola.
On the surface, they're two interests that seemingly contradict each other - but not in Garijo's case.
"Before my first drag show, I felt just like I do before a fight. In the early days of MMA, I would sit in the same changing room as my opponent before the fights," he told VICE.
"We'd sit, staring at each other, wondering: 'Can I beat him?' It was the same at my first drag show competition. A tiny room, eight adults, everyone sizing each other up. I wasn't nervous though. I have strong nerves. Or maybe I'm just too stupid to be scared."
Garijo began his MMA journey in 2006 after serving several years in prison for being smuggled into the United States from Mexico as a child.
A detached retina put Garijo's MMA career on hold before he eventually moved into bare-knuckle boxing a few years later.
But it's his story about how he originally discovered his passion for drag that is perhaps even more interesting.
"There is a photo of me as a six-year-old in which I'm wearing my mother's bra and panties," he said.
"She brought me up alone, and I had a couple of gay cousins, so I wasn't exposed to many traditional masculine stereotypes. Maybe that's why I can be very feminine. I think people wonder if I'm gay, but they don't understand that femininity and sexual preference are two completely different things.
"A few years ago I took a course on emotional intelligence. We were told we needed to leave our comfort zone. I really enjoy talking in front of lots of people and being the centre of attention, but when the word "drag" crossed my mind, I knew: damn, that's it! I threw myself right into it. I took up dance classes, had my ears pierced and got my body waxed. I learned how to walk in high heels and someone helped me with the outfits."
For most, fighting and drag couldn't be any more stark in contrast.
But for Garijo, he sees the similarities between the two and acknowledges how both have helped him overcome traumas from earlier in his life.
"Martial arts show us the beauty of humans overcoming great resistance. In drag, it's about overcoming toxic masculinity," he said.
"Trans people of colour in particular are among the most oppressed people of all. And they have the highest suicide rates. They should be supported instead of marginalised."
He added: "A lot of what I do has to do with being bullied as a kid. It made me feel small, like an outsider. I've always been ashamed of everything. Maybe that's why I've created a personality that has no shame. I was humiliated so much as a kid that I swore to myself I would never let it happen again. That's why I take a step forward in combat when others would take a step back... But I do carry my childhood trauma around with me all the time. I struggle with it every day.
"On a bad day, I go to training and do some sparring. Not because I want to hit someone, but because I want to take a few punches myself. Then I'll feel better. When fighting, all other problems become meaningless; it's all about getting through the fight."
Featured Image Credit: Credit: Instagram/@diegogarijo
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