Meet Gian Galang, the Filipino artist behind MMA’s most iconic artworks

gian galang fightland

Gian Galang’s artworks are known by fans and fighters alike, but his success did not come overnight.

You may recognize some of Galang’s artworks from well-known MMA website Fightland or from the many MMA Facebook pages and Instagram accounts that share his work. His artworks have even been shared by UFC fighters themselves, like Paige VanZant and Mark Hunt, who seem all too happy with Galang’s representations of them on his canvas.

Galang now works closely with some of the biggest names in the industry, but his notoriety today is a product of a life dedicated to art and martial arts.

Born in Los Angeles and raised by Filipino parents in both Hong Kong and then Virginia, Galang has always had a knack for art.

“I’ve always loved drawing and making things since I can remember,” said Galang. “As a kid, I would draw my favorite superheroes, cartoons, and comic book and video game characters. My Lolo was an architect and had a wood shop in our backyard. We were always working on projects together.”

A post shared by Gian Galang (@giangalang) on

After his studies at the Virginia Commonwealth University, Galang worked as an art director in advertising for nearly a decade. However, while he clocked in and out of his advertising job day after day, he was already brewing up a plan to pursue his art full-time.

“I had always done painting and drawing on the side until I finally had enough projects (and confidence) to go all in,” he said. Leaving a stable job to pursue his art full-time was a risky move, but it proved to be a decision Galang wouldn’t regret.

Dedicated to Fight Art
With a growing portfolio that had gained praise on Reddit and Tumblr, Galang sent some of his works to Fightland through social media. The website admin responded, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Galang’s works can now be seen as the main artworks accompanying Fightland’s feature articles, on murals in MMA gyms around the world, and even on MMA t-shirts worn by UFC fighters themselves. This is a dream come true for Galang, who’s been an MMA fan for a very long time.

“I’m a huge UFC fan. [Lyoto] Machida has always been my favorite because of the Karate,” said Galang, who took up Karate until college and then transitioned to Muay Thai, which he still practices until today. “‘Hunto’ (Mark Hunt) is also my favorite fighter. I guess either would be my favorite fighter depending on who’s fighting next.”

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Galang has gained plenty of praise for his works, even from the very fighters he paints. And for him, the biggest compliment for him is when the fighters themselves share his works.

“It’s so surreal,” he said. “One of the first MMA pieces I made was of Mark Hunt. It made its way from Tumblr to Reddit, then ‘Hunto’ made it his Facebook profile picture. I was freaking out. It’s always a huge boost for me when MMA fans and fighters enjoy my work, especially because it’s such a niche, tight knit community.”

An Evolving Skillset
Much like any mixed martial artist, Galang understands that he too needs to add new techniques to his artistic arsenal to keep growing and evolving. With that, he refuses to remain content with past paintings as he works towards improving his craft.

“It’s tough to say [which work is my favorite] because I continually lose interest in my older works,” shared Galang. “I would say the Anderson [Silva] piece was a bit of a breakthrough for me because it was the first time I had experimented with painting multiple portraits then collaging them together, a technique which I still find interesting and continue to explore.”

A post shared by Gian Galang (@giangalang) on

“I’m huge into sci-fi and comic books; I’m starting to explore some projects in these areas,” he added. “I would love to do comic book covers at some point.”

It took years and countless canvasses for Galang to get to where he is today. And he was able to keep building towards his dream because he was doing something he loved. And that, for him, is the key to any artist’s success.

“My advice [to young artists] would be to make what you like to make the most,” he shared. “I think if you’re going to be an artist, personal interest is the most important driving force to push your skill. So if you work on what you’re the most interested in, you’ll be the best that you can be.”

Follow Gian Galang on Instagram @giangalang. You can also view or purchase his works via giangalang.com and inprnt.com/gallery/giangalang.

Gab Pangalangan

Gab Pangalangan is a former collegiate national Judo champ and the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of DojoDrifter.com. You can find his other works in the Philippines' leading magazines and websites.
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