Garcia: 'One of us will break!'
Story & photo by Chris Cozzone
Seven years and nine fights ago, Leonard “Bad Boy” Garcia made his debut with World Extreme Cagefighting in the now-elite organization’s very first event.
Thirty-eight WEC events later, Garcia, 12-3, has made the transition from prelim battler to main eventer for, on Sunday Mar. 1, he will get a shot at the WEC’s lightweight title when he takes on champion Mike Brown, 20-4, of Portland, Ore.
The Lubbock, Texas contender, fighting out of Jackson’s in Albuquerque for the past year-and-a-half, proved his claim for a title shot in his last bout, utterly destroying former UFC champion Jens Pulver with punches, in just 1:12.
But Brown, who recently dethroned Urijah Faber, in November, may prove Garcia’s toughest opponent to date.
“I knew that Mike [Brown] had the tools to beat Urijah,” says Garcia. “He was bigger and stronger.
“But I thought he’d outwrestle Urijah. It surprised me when he knocked him out. With two wrestlers, you don’t expect to see a knockout . . . But I truly believed he’d win that fight.”
Brown is on an eight-fight winning streak, since 2006, while Garcia has won two straight since joining the WEC at lightweight. Before that, Garcia was 1-2 in the UFC, fighting out of his weight class after making the leap from the regional MMA circuit.
“I’m definitely not peaked yet,” says Garcia. “I have a few more years, a few more fights before I can say I’ve reached my full potential.
“I’m still learning a lot of things I had no idea about before. I consider myself top level, but, like everyone else – Mike, too – I’m still ‘young gun.’”
The 29-year-old Texan will have a home-state advantage Sunday night, when the two clash in Corpus Christi, Tex., but Garcia is not taking Brown lightly.
“You get a guy like Mike Brown, a guy you’ve never seen anyone break down, a guy who’s never gonna stop coming at me, you have to expect a tough fight,” says Garcia.
“It’s a scary fight. He’s not gonna stop coming, he’s not gonna stop doing this, or doing that. I know, I have to push myself to the limit.
“One of us will break, and it’s not gonna be me.”
Last year, Garcia did come close to breaking—but it wasn’t from anything that happened in the cage. Garcia was arrested after finding himself on a list of suspected drug peddlers in his hometown of Lubbock.
“I knew from the beginning, that I was gonna be exonerated from the charges,” says Garcia. “I felt I was targeted because I was a big name, or because I had something to lose.
“It was not a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, but about hanging out with people you shouldn’t be hanging out with. A lot of us know people who, we know do certain things. But we think, as long as you don’t have anything to do with it, you’re okay, you’re alright.
“Well, you’re not alright.”
Garcia’s legal battle took him out of the cage for four months, but, in the end, his name was cleared.
“It played out the way it was supposed to. I’m glad it’s behind me now because now I have bigger problems than that.
“Like Mike Brown.”