Leonard Garcia Calling on Team Alpha Male to Help Him Return to UFC
Leonard Garcia knew the call was coming.
Following his loss to Cody McKenzie at UFC 159 last weekend that marked his fifth defeat in a row inside the Octagon, Garcia had no illusions that his job would be saved with the promotion.
If anything, Garcia was mad at himself for putting on such a lackluster performance after a career made by wild fights that usually kept the crowd on their feet. The writing was on the wall minutes after his loss to McKenzie—he was no longer a UFC fighter.
"After the (Cody) McKenzie fight, I made it easy (for the UFC to release me)," Garcia told Bleacher Report on Thursday. "That was hands down my worst performance. It was one of those things where I never got going, I felt flat and I don't know what it was exactly, but I just didn't feel good. I never got going. I never did anything I trained to do. I was in a bad place the whole time. I made the decision really easy for the UFC."
Garcia's career with the UFC was filled with hills and valleys of close decisions and controversial wins and losses, and he never believes he fought to his true potential. The sting of his last defeat mixed with his release from the UFC served as a major wake-up call to the veteran fighter.
"The way I'm looking at this now is it's not over. This is a new chapter," Garcia said. "This is something that I needed for myself. It's been a great ride. They were actually trying to find a way to hold on, to keep me on board. Being with that said I know they want me back. I've got to go out and make a change."
Throughout Garcia's time with the organization, UFC president Dana White often championed Garcia for his willingness to take any fight and make it exciting for the fans. Being exciting isn't enough to save a job when it's accompanied by five losses in a row, and Garcia knew the axe was going to fall.
At only 33 years of age, however, Garcia isn't ready to call it quits, pick up his gloves and go home. He may be a bit of an old dog, but he's ready to learn some new tricks.
It will begin with a part-time move to Sacramento, as he will prepare ready for fights from now on with the stellar group of fighters working at Team Alpha Male. With new head coach Duane "Bang" Ludwig leading the way, who also just so happens to be Garcia's cousin, the team has found nothing but success under his regime.
Garcia wants to capture that same kind of magic for his own career.
"I talked to my cousin Duane Ludwig and I feel like maybe making a move to Team Alpha Male for half my camp from here on out," Garcia revealed. "I want to spend five or six weeks out there with them, and then five or six weeks at home. Being as I'm trying to fight in July, I want to get out there pretty quick. It's something that I've been told from day one you've got to work on your wrestling. You've got to work on getting to your feet when guys get you down.
"At Alpha Male, there's a room full of guys that can take me down and hold me there. Being that their school is geared that way and I have my cousin there to keep sharpening my stand-up skills, and if you've been watching all of those guys' stand-up skills have been getting a whole lot better. I feel like I'm getting the best of both worlds out there."
For the last six years of his life, Garcia has called New Mexico home, where he's trained under coaches Greg Jackson and Mike Winkeljohn alongside his teammate and close friend Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone. The move to Team Alpha Male is in no way Garcia's way of exiting the team at Jackson's.
In reality, it's just a supplement to his regular training camp. He hopes to inject some new life into his preparation as he looks for fights outside the Zuffa family for the first time in more than six years.
"My team is okay with it, (Donald) "Cowboy" (Cerrone) was okay with it, all the guys at Jackson's said, 'Oh that's fine, that's a great place, especially for you to work on things you need to work on.' This is something that had to happen," Garcia said. "I wish this is something that would have happened a little sooner, but desperate times call for desperate measures. I'm never going anywhere, I'm never going to leave Jackson's. That's my team."
Spending so much time at Jackson's was both good and bad for Garcia over the last couple of years. As great as the coaching and team were in New Mexico, Garcia admits training with the same fighters on a daily basis led to him adapting to their styles and never evolving his own game.
At Team Alpha Male, Garcia will be in a room full of new training partners and new coaches, and it's the kind of shock his system needs right now.
"I need to be the new guy in the room, and what better place," Garcia stated about the Sacramento-based camp.
With Jackson's blessing, Garcia is hoping to pick up shop and start working with the new team right away because his desire is to book a fight by July. He wants to gather no rust sitting out and waiting for things to happen.
The goal for Garcia is to fight in July, and if he wins and comes away healthy, he wants to be available for a fight as early as August, even if the UFC needs him on short notice. Either way, Garcia wants to be back in the UFC no later than the end of 2013 and then never leave again until he calls it a career.
"I want to end my career with the UFC," Garcia said. "I don't want to end it at smaller shows. This is something that's a big drive for me. The Korean Zombie (Chan Sung Jung) rematch is a dream of mine, it's something I think about all the time. I have to be in the UFC for that to happen so I've got some work to do."
Damon Martin is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report, and all quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
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