EXCLUSIVE (Part 2) | Leonard Garcia Discusses his Current Success at Legacy FC
“To be on a streak again and to be on the winning side of it with no losses, that’s always a great feeling,” said former UFC fighter and current Legacy FC featherweight champion Leonard Garcia on his recent success in the cage. “All together, man, in general, life is good.”
By Christopher Murphy @MurphMMA
By now, most MMA fans have seen Leonard Garcia’s knockout victory that earned him the Legacy FC featherweight title earlier this month. It was a performance that marked the third consecutive win for Garcia since his release from the UFC, all three victories coming by way of a stoppage.
Leonard Garcia spoke to BJPENN.COM recently, and he delved into his newfound success that has revitalized his career.
For Garcia, his departure from the UFC came at the heels of a 5-fight losing streak. Though, on paper, the decision made sense, those five fights saw impressive wars with some of the UFC’s top featherweight fighters. In any case, Garcia described the release as a “wake-up call” to change his training camps and really focus on preparing for fights. The result has been a quick run to Legacy FC’s title.
“Life is good, man!” Garcia said of his recent success. “Of course, I mean with anything, any time you’re winning, it’s always [good] – there’s more ups and downs in this sport – it’s crazy, man! So to be on a streak again and to be on the winning side of it with no losses, that’s always a great feeling; but all together, man, in general, life is good.”
As for what’s behind this resurgence of the 145-lb. fighter’s career, Garcia credits it to success outside the cage that directly influenced his focus inside.
“Me, personally, on the inside and in my heart, what I believe is that it’s God for me,” Garcia explained. “Being in church – you know, I know tons of people probably said this in the past – it’s the best way I can explain it to people. Somebody asked me in an interview, ‘Does God tell you to get a takedown now or go for submissions or look for the finishes?’ It’s not that, it’s just getting that understanding and learning at church changed everything for me in life, because in order to understand the things that my pastor is giving me, I had to study those things. I had to really break them down and pay attention to detail.
“So then, I’m thinking, just in general, in life and in the gym, what am I missing in the gym? … I would go to the gym, and I would use that same focus in the gym. So then Greg [Jackson] would say, ‘OK, if somebody’s on side-control and you have to get away, you have to set the table to get away,’ and I started really listening, man. So for me, that was the thing – paying attention and learning things that I was learning in church carried over into the gym, and then it changed a lot of things for me.”
With a newfound focus and dedication to learning the sport of MMA, Garcia has put himself in a position to seriously make a return to the UFC. If you ask him, it’s certainly something he can do – and do successfully.
“I think that the level of fighters at Legacy – you know this kid, Kevin, that I just fought, I know he was highly scouted by the UFC,” Garcia said. “I know they were watching him, they were scouting him, and they thought he was a special kid – the competition level is right underneath there, and I’m finishing all these guys. When I was in the UFC, I wasn’t being finished, and I wasn’t paying attention to details. So I feel like if I get, when I get my second chance, I’ll come back and I’ll keep finishing guys. I always had an aggressive style, but it was always without thought. Now I’m using my head, I’m getting in there and I’m doing the proper things. Man, all I need is an opportunity. Everybody knows the fight in me is never going to go, nobody’s going to go blow me out of the water. The way I feel, they’re not going to just go and roll over me; but now that I’m thinking about it, I’ll be able to go in there and out-smart them. I can feel it. I train at two of the top gyms in the world, and I’m competitive at both places. I know that once I come back I’ll be able to make my last couple prime years count.”
In addition to the spiritual focus that has helped Garcia, the maturation of his body and mind has also played a crucial part to his success.
“I feel like right now is my time,” said the 34-year-old fighter. “I feel like a young kid again but with a newfound strength, what do they call it? Old man strength? Like my body is definitely maturing. My strength and conditioning levels have gotten better, I feel like I’m at almost at the peak of my prime at the end of this year and into 35, and I feel like at 35 I’m going to be at my best. I feel like I have a short window [and] amount of time to make a statement and hit it as hard as I can now, so I’m excited to get out there, get back in there and get after it and show people that this will be my last run at it, but I’m going to make the most at it.”
And given his most recent KO victory, Garcia believes that run could happen sooner rather than later.
“I’ve been anxious,” Garcia said, “and I’ve kind of heard whispers in high places and small murmurs here and there. It’s one of those things where I’m really just kind of sitting back, I haven’t really talked to Legacy about the next fight, I haven’t talked to anybody because I’m kind of, you know, gonna sit here and wait for a week or two. I’m definitely expecting a call back.”
If that call comes soon, Garcia said there are certainly some fighters in the UFC he would love to face again.
“Absolutely!” Garcia exclaimed. “The Korean Zombie! Me and him have a real good relationship. We have a couple fights, we’re 1-1 against each other. I feel like that’s one fight he would also like to take. He’s coming off just fighting for the title, and I would have no problem at all jumping into the pool with him again. So that’s one fight that give me a lot of interest, and it fires me up, man. If they called me and told me that he was the guy they’re going to put me in with, I’d sign the contract tomorrow. There supposed to be coming into Mexico, so if they wanted to add a little more fuel to the fire and do it over there, let’s do it!”
And while Leonard Garcia will hope for that call from the UFC, he said that he’ll keep his momentum going regardless of what organization.
“I’m a fighter,” he explained. “I’m a fighter at heart… that’s something I love doing. UFC is the ultimate goal, that’s where everybody wants to be. That’s where you prove yourself and everything, but at the end of the day I got a family to feed, and if they don’t call fast enough – to me, if somebody says you have to win this fight to get back to the UFC, truth be told, you have to win every fight to be in the UFC. It doesn’t matter man, I’m fired up right now; I’m ready to get back in there whether it’s UFC or whether it’s Legacy, wherever it’s at, man, I just want someone in front of me that I can hit.”
Be sure to catch the rest of Garcia’s interview where he talks about the early days of his UFC career and the spirit and heart that makes Mexican fighters some of the toughest and most exciting athletes in MMA today!