By Simon Samano/@sjsamano
For FOX Deportes
Leonard Garcia just wouldn’t give up his Corn Pops.
Garcia, 8 years old at the time, was at the grocery store with his family when his turn came to pick his favorite cereal for him and his siblings. He was thrilled. His older sister, however, wasn’t happy he chose Corn Pops, and she demanded he give them up for her favorite Fruit Loops.
But Garcia had to have his Pops. He wasn’t about to back down. He even hugged the box as his sister tried to pry it away. When that didn’t work, she took a different approach. She punched him in the face … hard.
“Man, she let me have it,” Garcia said in a phone interview with FOX Deportes. “She gave me one good one, and it was like a perfect shot. As soon as the knuckles stopped landing on my face, the knot started coming out. I’m talking my eye was swelled up like two inches from my face.”
Garcia laughs it off now, but he remembers it well. Actually, he remembers many similar experiences growing up as the baby of the family with three brothers and three sisters — actually his aunts and uncles because he was raised by his grandparents.
“I took some pretty good beatings when I was a kid,” Garcia said. “My sisters used to give it to me worse than my brothers, because at least the brothers showed a little mercy. My sisters had no mercy. One of my sisters now tells everybody, ‘He’s only tough like that because of me.’ Yeah, she used to put some shellackings on me when I was little.”
You wonder why Garcia fights fearlessly? That’s why — those beatings and shellackings he received as a kid. Not to mention the pride Garcia takes in upholding the reputation as a tough Mexican-American fighter who welcomes going toe-to-toe with his opponents.
“I’ve always been able to give as good as I got. … It’s just something that I have inside of me,” said Garcia, who’s never been knocked out in 24 professional fights. “I give credit to my Mexican roots. Mexican fighters can throw down, and I definitely fit that bill. And I’m not going to stop. It’s never going to change. There’s not a guy out there that can break me.”
There’s an M.O. we’ve gotten used to with Garcia. He certainly can be technical and controlled when he wants to in the octagon, but he tends to throw everything behind his punches. Then, by the time the third round approaches, and fatigue sets in, those punches turn into full-blown haymakers.
It’s not the smartest approach to MMA, but it’s always been damn exciting to watch, resulting in four Fights of the Night, including the 2010 Fight of the Year against Jung Chan-Sung.
However, a Fight of the Night bonus is not what Garcia (15-8-1) is interested in earning Friday night when he faces Matt Grice (14-4) at UFC on FX 3 in Sunrise, Fla.
“The way I fight has brought me a lot of awards and recognition, but if you’re not winning you don’t want to be there,” Garcia said. “I’m a competitor, man. I hate losing, can’t stand it. The Fight of the Night bonuses used to make it easier. But now that’s not what I’m looking for. I’m not looking for a Fight of the Night, or looking to go out there and throw the game plan out the window.”
Garcia is looking to win. Not only that, he’s looking for a decisive win. And quite frankly, he desperately needs it now that he’s on a two-fight losing streak, something the 32-year-old veteran had never experienced in his 14-year career.
“I enter this fight with my back against the wall, which is something I’ve kind of been used to throughout life,” Garcia said. “It’s not an uncomfortable position for me. … I put myself in this position, so I need to get myself out.”
But can Garcia do that with a new approach that isn’t so risky?
“I’m always going to be that guy that fights to the bitter end. That’s just something I’ve never let go of,” Garcia said. “But I’ve been getting more and more technical. I feel that this fight, if the guy does get a takedown on me, I’m going to show people my ground game a little bit. He’s a wrestler, so his ventures are to do more stuff on the ground. So I’m excited to show everybody everything that I’ve been working on.”
A more technical Leonard Garcia? Wonder what his sister will have to say about this.