Leonard Garcia's win against Jens Pulver at this Wednesday's WEC 36 brought an end of sorts to a long period of struggling in his life. Seven months ago, the Lubbock, Texas native was looking at jail time as part of a federal drug trafficking indictment. A promising young featherweight in a rising organization, the charges threatened to put a halt to Garcia's career before it blossomed. Eventually, he was cleared of the charges, but still may have to do a year of probation for refusing to assist the authorities' investigation.
Garcia knew a victory could be a benchmark in his career. He knew that in life, as in fighting, anything could happen at any moment; the opportunity could not be wasted.
"Fighting Jens, I knew it was going to be a good fight," he said. "I thought it was going to be a little more drug out, but I trained really hard for this, and I think it's a life changing fight. That's kind of the approach I took for it, and it worked out for me."
Their encounter was surprisingly short. Pulver, lining up for a KO with his straight left, walked right into a pair of hooks from Garcia. The shots visibly wobbled Pulver, and Garcia charged in to finish. It was over in 72 seconds.
"You pray for these kind of fights," said Garcia. "These kind of fights are the ones you want. You want to be able to show all your artillery and not take any shots, so it works out."
Garcia had many to thank for the victory, not the least of which was the WEC for sticking by him during his legal troubles.
"Those guys stuck by me," he said. "My manager made sure everything went my way, he put this fight together for me, and I dedicate this fight to all those guys. They did it for me. Me coming out here and doing what I did for them made me happy."
Mike Brown is now the man on Garcia's horizon, another potentially huge benchmark in his career should he defeat the new champion. Garcia is ready.
"For sure," he said. "Mike's a great champion, man. He's holding on to that belt real tight right now; he's probably loving life. The fact of the matter is, just like Urijah [Faber], anything can happen at any moment. I think right now is my time, I'm at my peak, and I'm ready to perform, so I say Mike, let's get it on."