In the year following his release from the UFC, featherweight Leonard “Bad Boy” Garcia has righted himself and become one of the best comeback stories in MMA.
In three fights with the Legacy FC promotion, Garcia has rebuilt his career, culminating in a 145-pound title win this past December.
Looking back, Garcia told MMAWeekly.com that even after four years and 30 fights, he’s still developing in the sport and now becoming the fighter and person he’s always wanted to be.
“It started clicking again and things started making sense. In training, I went back to the basics and stepped up my jiu-jitsu and wrestling, and focused on things other than just being an exciting fighter,” he said. “It changed a lot of things for me.
“Another big thing is that I’ve turned my life around and started hitting church really hard. As far as going into the fight with a clear mind and great feeling, I was able to do this in these last couple fights and the results have been great.”
Not only has Garcia won his last three fights, he’s also become increasingly efficient, finishing all three bouts quicker than the one prior.
“That’s what I’ve wanted to do since I left the UFC, get progressively better,” said Garcia. “Training at Elevate, their goal is to make you more of an athlete, build athleticism, and that’s been a huge help to me.”
After his last scheduled bout earlier this year was scrapped, Garcia (18-11-1) finally gets in his first bout of 2014 when he defends his featherweight title against up-and-comer Damon Jackson (8-0) at Legacy FC 33 in Dallas.
“This is an extremely tough fight and I’ve got tons of respect for the kid,” said Garcia of Jackson. “He’s got a lot of submission finishes and is a good wrestler. I think you can teach a striker to wrestle – which is something I’ve been working on all the time – but I don’t think you can teach a wrestler to take a punch.
“I know his comfort level is on the ground and I don’t want to be there. If we end up there, I think I’ll be fine, but I don’t want to be where he is comfortable. I want to be standing and see how he does there.”
While Garcia has made no secrets about his desire to return to the UFC to finish out his career, right now he’s more concerned with continuing his development than anything else.
“Without adding additional pressure or thinking this win will put me over the top and gets me to the next level, all I’m thinking about is becoming a better fighter,” he said. “If I fight to my potential, I’ll get back into the UFC. Right now I’m just trying to fight to my potential.”