(Eyes closed? Hands nowhere near his chin? Yep, that’s a man who has made his peace with getting punched in the mouth. / Photo via Tracy Lee)
UFC featherweight Leonard Garcia has had a rough last couple of years, going winless in 2011 and 2012, including his split-decision loss to Max Holloway this weekend on the UFC 155 prelims, but at least his new year won’t get immediately worse. UFC prez Dana White has promised that Garcia will not be cut from the organization’s roster, despite racking up his fourth-consecutive loss.
“There’s no way in hell we’re cutting Leonard Garcia,” White told assembled media after the fights on Saturday.
Garcia’s UFC job security cuts both ways. On the one hand, he’s a balls-to-the-wall fighter who is always exciting, if sloppy. A guts and glory fighter like Garcia is a promoter’s dream. He doesn’t have to be great to be marketable.
On the other hand, Garcia has only managed to win three times in his last eleven fights as a Zuffa fighter. Such a poor winning percentage in an active UFC fighter is an aberration, to say the least. Typically, even exciting fan favorites are cut loose after two or three consecutive losses and told to go put together a win streak on the regional circuits before they are brought back to the UFC.
Is it possible that, at some point, a UFC fighter who keeps losing reflects poorly on the organization’s status as the top MMA promotion in the world? Perhaps, but probably not. It’s a perception game. And we’re willing to bet that most MMA fans, hard core or casual, will be hard-pressed to see a substantial qualitative difference between a fighter like Garcia and one that he lost a close decision to, like Holloway, who is on a three-fight win streak and has only lost once in his pro career.
Additionally, it is difficult to get up in arms about the retention of the services of a fighter like Garcia, who gives it his all every fight against the best in the world, when we also express surprise and outrage when a fighter is cut seemingly too fast after just one or two losses.
That being said, Garcia has gone from losing to top contenders (Mark Hominick, Chan Sung Jung), to losing to tough veterans (Nam Phan, Matt Grice), to losing to green prospects like the 21-year-old Holloway. Garcia is not an elite featherweight, and it’s hard to even call him a gatekeeper at this point. His spot on the UFC roster comes at the expense of another featherweight, somewhere out there, who might deserve it more.
What do you think, nation? Is Garcia’s job security a good thing for the UFC and MMA or is it degrading the quality of their roster?