EXCLUSIVE (Part 3) | Leonard Garcia on the Mexican Fighting Spirit
Leonard Garcia is well-known as one of the toughest fighters in mixed martial arts. He has fought in a number of Fight of the Night performances – most notably with Roger Huerta, Chan Sung Jung and Nam Phan – where he took and gave incredible damage for 15 minutes. Garcia credits his style of fighting to the tough spirit that lives in all Mexican fighters, and he expects a rise of more as the UFC looks to expand to the country.
By Christopher Murphy @MurphMMA
Mexican fighters have long held sway in boxing. Boxers like Oscar de la Hoya and Julio Cesar Chavez are just a few among a wealth of the sport’s top champions. Mexican boxers have long been known for their heart and grit in addition to their top-level champions.
It is no surprise, then, to find a similar trend burgeoning in mixed martial arts. With top fighters like UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez, the UFC has built a cadre of Mexican and Latino fighters who continually provide exciting, high-level fights. Most recently, former Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez fought Diego Sanchez in what can arguably be called the fight of the year – both fighters displaying heart and toughness to an unbelievable level.
If you ask Mexican-American fighter, Leonard Garcia, it’s only indicative of even greater things to come.
“I’ve been saying that since me and Roger first fought each other,” Garcia told BJPENN.COM of his 2007 bout with then-rising star, Roger Huerta, at UFC 69. “I was like, ‘Hey, this is what happens when you put two guys with the Mexican spirit in there to fight against each other. That fight was an instant classic.”
Fast forward nearly six years and the rise of Latino fighters continues to grow. The UFC is looking to make its long-awaited debut in Mexico, and the organization’s list of Mexican fighters continues to grow.
“You got champions like Cain [Velasquez], also Anthony Pettis, you know, he’s also got Spanish in him,” Garcia said. “Diego Sanchez and Gilbert Melendez, [their fight] was a treat to see. I don’t even know what to call that fight, that was awesome, man! I feel like this is definitely our time, especially going into Mexico. The Brazilians had that little moniker about them, they had the little flag or whatever it was. They have huge events in Brazil that go well, but I feel like Mexico is a whole different [and] next stage. It’s a book waiting to be opened, man, and it’s going to be the best ever. I’m excited for it, and like I said, I can’t wait to be a part of it!”
Garcia himself is no stranger to the epic fights he describes as typical of Mexican fighters. His first UFC fight with Roger Huerta is easily one of the best examples of heart and toughness inside the Octagon. Garcia has gone on to earn four Fight of the Night honors in the UFC, all of them full, 3-round fights.
While much of a fighter’s style has to do with his own personal training and preparation, Garcia credits much of his own style, and that to other Mexican fighters, to the spirit and inspiration that is passed down in culture and legend.
“Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata, those are spirits that are still around, and those are the stories you hear about,” Garcia said, recounting the history of Mexico’s most famous revolutionaries. “My great grandfather, he would talk about those guys, and that’s exciting stuff to know that’s the bloodline that are drawn out in the Mexican heritage. I think it shows, man, any time one of us fights, a true Mexican [descendent], you get these great, great battles. Like you said, you get the chills just thinking about it.”
One thing is for sure, as the UFC and MMA organizations continue to expand into Mexico, MMA fans worldwide can expect to see more and more epic battles inside the cage.