by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
(Photos courtesy Robert Terry / Ring of Fire)
At April 7th’s UFC 69 in Houston, Texas the fight of the night might not be the evening’s main event clash for the 170lb Championship between Georges St. Pierre and Matt Serra.
In fact, what could very well outshine the rest of the competition could take place earlier in the evening when UFC veteran Roger Huerta meets up with newcomer Leonard Garcia in a Texas-sized showdown in the lightweight division.
While Huerta is a name UFC fans know for his two earlier exciting showings in the promotion, few may be familiar with his opponent Leonard Garcia.
Garcia, a mainstay in the Ring of Fire promotion, debuted at the tender age of 19 for the USWF promotion in 1999 and has racked up a 9-1 record since, winning 8 in a row heading into UFC 69.
Now heading into the biggest fight of his life, Leonard has an opportunity to prove himself in front of a hometown crowd and maybe set a place for himself in the extremely deep UFC 155lb division.
“I’m feeling very good, extremely confident and a lot stronger than I’ve felt for any other fight,” exclaimed Garcia of his UFC debut. “Basically I feel like this is going to be an introduction to my hometown. I’m from Texas, so this is like a dream come true for me.”
Leonard continued, “To fight in my hometown is not added pressure or anything; it’s a great wonderful feeling. The UFC has always dream of mine, and now it’s time to step up, get in there and do what we do.”
For this huge opportunity Garcia decided to step up his training, heading to what is quickly becoming the newest Mecca of MMA excellence.
“For this fight I came up to Greg Jackson’s camp [in New Mexico] to train and get ready and actually got signed to the team,” explained Leonard. “So now that I’m an official part of Jackson’s team I’m doing all their workouts: boxing, kickboxing, grappling, wrestling, [and] everything.”
“I’ve never been prepared this way for a fight, so this is going to be definitely my best showing,” added Garcia.
As Leonard knows, his opponent Roger Huerta is on a roll, impressing the UFC faithful with some of the most exciting performances in recent UFC memory, and if Garcia is to win the fight, he’ll have to go all-out himself.
“As far as Roger goes, he and I are like spitting images for fight styles,” commented Leonard. “We both go for it and there’s no give in either one of us.”
Garcia further stated, “So it’s going to be basically two hard rocks hitting each other and whichever one breaks [the other] first, that’s who’s going to win the fight.”
If there is one hole that Leonard sees in Huerta’s game, it could be Roger’s submission defense. And as many people know, that area of MMA is a specialty of many of Jackson’s fighters.
“With Roger it’s one of those things where you try to attack his weaknesses,” said Garcia. “Roger is an over-aggressive fighter, just as I am, and being over-aggressive like that you lose a lot of position.”
“In this fight I’m definitely going to target him being over-aggressive, and me maybe ending it with a submission,” continued Leonard.
With the recent acquisition of PRIDE by the UFC, as well as the influx of lightweights coming from season 5 of The Ultimate Fighter, the UFC lightweight division is quickly becoming one of the most expansive in MMA history.
As Garcia points out however, he enjoys the fact that there’s so many people coming into the weight class and relishes the challenge.
“I love that there’s so many guys coming in,” exclaimed Leonard. “I feel like one of the [Spartan] warriors in [the movie] 300, with the Persian army just coming down after me.”
Garcia added, “That’s pretty much what it feels like for me right now, but also I know I’m in the right place to get ready and prepare for all the new guys coming down. I honestly think that the lightweight division will be the most exciting division in the UFC. I’m just ecstatic to be part of it.”
Should things go well for Leonard at UFC 69 this weekend, he feels he could set himself up to contend for the most prestigious title in lightweight fighting.
“What I’m trying to do in the UFC is not only build a name for myself, and the academy, but I also want to be a World Champion,” commented Garcia. “The ultimate goal for all of us fighters is to be the best that we can be.”
“I believe that after a couple of more fights, training sessions and years being here, that I’ll definitely be one of the top guys out there fighting for the title. That’s my ultimate goal in the UFC – to be the Champion,” further stated Leonard.
But in order to reach those goals Garcia has to get past the toughest challenge of his career in Roger Huerta at UFC 69 in Houston. And according to Leonard, it’s going to be a showdown that no one is going to want to miss.
“First of all I’d like to thank South Beach Club & Lounge, ProFightWear.com, everybody at Greg Jackson’s, my manager Sven Bean, and Pittman’s Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu,” said Leonard. “I’d like to have everybody come out and watch me and Roger bang heads.”
Garcia concluded, “You’re going to see two Hispanic warriors locking horns, and that’s the name of the game for me – lock up and see how it goes. That’s the type of fighter everybody wants to see, nobody wants to see a boring fight, and I guarantee that Roger and I will not bore anybody in the house, so come out and watch us.”