(Don’t worry, Leonard, the worst is over!)
It’s been a rough couple of years for Leonard Garcia to say the least. Sure, he was able to remain employed with the UFC despite five straight losses, but Garcia isn’t the type of guy to take his job, let alone a losing streak, lightly. At least, he wasn’t. But somewhere along the line, Garcia became stagnant, he became complacent. He knew all the ins and outs of Team Jackson — one of the highest-acclaimed martial arts gyms in the world — yet he didn’t seem to be progressing as a fighter in the slightest.
But all of that changed when he was finally released from his Zuffa contract following a lackluster decision loss to Cody McKenzie at UFC 159 last month. Realizing that a change was not only necessary, but critical if he were to ever attempt a third run in the UFC, the 33-year old recently told MMAFighting that phase two (phase 3?) of his career will start with a new training camp and a new organization:
I’m going to go out to Team Alpha Male for a little while. My cousin (Ed note: Like, actual cousin or like how Donald Cerrone is “your brother?”) Duane Ludwig is out there, and I talked it over with Greg (Jackson). Greg said, ‘Yeah, the problem is guys that can take you down and hold you down.’ And now I’m going to go to a whole team of guys who are really, really good at that.
Just being the new guy in the room is going to help me a lot, because it’s something different. It’s a style I’ve never seen. Their style is unfamiliar to me. I don’t know all their tricks like I do at Jackson’s. Like, we know each other so well at Jackson’s, and I think that’s caused me to become flat.
I talked it over with both camps and they’re both okay with it. I feel like this is a move that should’ve been a long time ago, but it takes situations like this to make it happen.
Team Alpha Male consists of several of Garcia’s former WEC cohorts; Urijah Faber, Joseph Benavidez, Chad Mendes — who have all either held titles or fought for them in their WEC or UFC careers, often both. The move is undoubtedly a sound idea for Garcia, and the ultra-aggressive yet cardio-heavy style Team Alpha Male has become known for should meld with him nicely.
As for the organization Garcia will likely call home next? The answer might surprise you.