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Leonard Garcia: Stalking Urijah

By CagePotato Special Contributor Brian Knapp

“Bad Boy” wants a shot at World Extreme Cagefighting’s immovable object.

Perhaps best known for his epic bout with Roger Huerta at UFC 69 last April, Leonard Garcia (11-3, 2-0 WEC) expects to compete next at a WEC show scheduled for June 1st in Sacramento, CA. A featherweight title bout between reigning champion Urijah Faber and Jens Pulver is slated to headline the event, and the 28-year-old Texan believes he could be within arm’s reach of a shot at the winner should he continue to perform at a high level.

“I would say whoever the winner of that fight is…if I fight on that card and do well, I would hope I’d get a title shot shortly after,” Garcia says. “They’re talking about giving me two more fights [before I challenge the champion], which would be good for me, too, because I’m getting better and better.”

Garcia — who dropped to a more natural 145 pounds after posting a 1-2 mark in the UFC’s cutthroat lightweight division — returned to the WEC for the first time in seven years last month, and made the most of his opportunity. The charismatic former Ring of Fire lightweight champion blasted through Hiroyuki “Streetfight Bancho” Takaya — a man with victories against Hatsu Hioki and Antonio Carvalho on his resume — in just 91 seconds at WEC 32.

Spawned by Jackson’s Submission Fighting in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Garcia was believed to be on track to compete again in April. However, WEC promoters could not secure a suitable opponent willing to step into the cage with him; at least one potential challenger turned down a fight with Garcia.

“I’m glad I’m in a position where people are worried about fighting me,” he says. “But I don’t think I’ll have to worry about that too much, because in our division, there aren’t too many people who are worried about fighting anybody.”

At the top of that division stands Faber (20-1), arguably the WEC’s most marketable commodity. He has reeled off a dozen wins in a row since his controversial loss to Tyson Griffin in September 2005 and shows no signs of slowing down. The 5-foot-6 juggernaut submitted the highly regarded Jeff Curran with a second-round guillotine choke at WEC 31 in December. Curran had not tapped out of a match in eight years.

Garcia admires Faber’s tenacity and drive. “Urijah’s a monster,” he says. “I’m going to have to really, really get ready for that fight. He’s extremely confident in everything he does. There’s no hesitation. That’s his ultimate strength, other than being a strong wrestler, which, for me, is the toughest opponent to face. His confidence and work ethic are why he is where he is.”

Unbeaten and virtually untested in five WEC bouts, Faber has delivered half of his 20 career wins inside one round, and all but three of his victories have come by knockout, technical knockout or submission. Garcia believes Faber’s ability to wear down his opponents mentally has fueled his rise to superstardom.

“Urijah has the ability to break people,” Garcia says. “I’m a hard person to break. That’s what’s going to give him problems. You know you’ve got to fight for 25 minutes. You just have to prepare to go 25 minutes. I don’t know how to say die. Whatever he does, I’m going to be able to answer back.”

Garcia — who has never been finished in 14 career bouts — seems content to remain in the shadows, at least for the time being.

“The longer [Faber] waits,” Garcia says, “the more trouble he’s going to get into with me.”

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