The way Leonard Garcia
fights, he knows time is not exactly on his side. Some guys are elusive in the cage. Some guys are tactical. They can go on for decades that way, suffering relatively few injuries over the course of their careers.
But Garcia? He's about as tactical as a battering ram. That's the way he likes it, even if it hurts sometimes.
Take, for example, his most recent WEC fight with "The Korean Zombie" Chan Sung Jung
. Garcia injured his hand early in the bout, used his face to block a majority of the punches Jung threw his way, and received a 6-month medical suspension
for the damage he incurred while participating in the "Fight of the Night."
But as fierce as the fight was and as much damage as he suffered in the victory over Jung, you'd never know it from the look on Garcia's face as he posed with Jung backstage before the two took a trip to the hospital together
"Yeah, we were both banged up, but we were still smiling and having a good time," Garcia told MMA Fighting. "To me, that's what fighting's all about – the wars like that. And then to be able to sit back and crack jokes with the guy who you were just trying to kill, that's what it's about. Everybody who saw that fight probably thought we hated each other.
"The truth is, we went to the hospital together and then we went and ate at Denny's together. Then we met again the next day. His family that was down there wanted to meet me, and we also exchanged shirts. That, to me, is the epitome of fighting. That's what makes me want to do it so much. That's what makes all the pain and the hurting sort of go away."
It might make the pain go away temporarily, but those kinds of fights have a way of adding up over time, and Garcia knows it. At 30 years old, he estimates he has about five or six good years left in the sport, and his aggressive approach is a big part of why. Changing his style up might prolong his career, but it's not in the plans, Garcia said.
"With my style, my coach gets mad at me because my defense isn't good at all. My defense is my offense. If I can turn my offense on, that's the only way I can stop getting hit. You suffer injuries and you come out hurting a little more than other guys that way. I know I may not last as long in this sport than other guys who fight differently, but I'm going to go out there and do what I'm going to do no matter what."
Following up on the split decision win over Jung, Garcia is targeting a September return to the cage for the WEC. While he can't say just yet who he might be facing, he ruled out the possibility that it will be a rematch with Jung. Though he would have welcomed the chance to revisit that bout, Garcia said his next fight will be an even bigger one, and one with the chance to propel him into a title fight.
"It's going to be a big fight, somebody I haven't fought before, a really big name in the division, and it should definitely have title implications afterward. I'm trying to give you as many clues as I can without giving it away. To me it seems like a really exciting fight, because this guy's always in really exciting fights."
And if you're thinking that the possibility of a title shot – or the threat of another long injury layoff – might encourage Garcia to alter his all-out approach and play it safe, think again.
"I'm not going to change my style any time soon, so I guess I'll just be in the back smiling again on the way to the hospital."