Texan Leonard Garcia ready for WEC 51

Leonard Garcia (left) knows Mark Hominick will present a tough challenge at WEC 51. Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com

With 20 fights under his belt, multiple Fight of the Night honors, and having had the UFC brass praise his last fight at WEC 48 against Jung "The Korean Zombie" Chan-Sung as being one of the most exciting fights to date, it’s clear that Leonard “Bad Boy” Garcia is a man that steps into the cage to do his job as a professional mixed martial artist. His job being to fight, and he does it well.

His strategy is simple, Garcia explained.

“You have to be smart,” he said. “I put everything I have into a fight to win, and it’s important to me to know I can go to sleep at night knowing I gave it my all.”

But where does his drive come from? Having been adopted and raised by his grandparents in Plainview, Texas, his aunts and uncles in turn were raised as his siblings, making him not just the youngest of the bunch but the one that received a lot of attention from his grandparents (whom he called mom and dad).

“I had to be scrappy,” he said. “I remember going to the store and all of us being told to get a box of our favorite cereal. My sister (aunt) said you’re getting Coco Puffs. I said no, I want Fruit Pebbles. She pushed me down and I got a knot and one of the worst black eyes I’ve ever had. She freaked out and I ended up getting the cereal I wanted.”

Garcia knows that although it was sometimes tough, growing up in the strict but loving home also provided him with a strong work ethic.

Many people can probably say they were scrappy growing up, and yet they don’t find themselves fighting in the WEC, one of the top MMA organizations in the world. While he’s blessed with what he has within his current career, it hasn’t always been easy. He has learned quite a lot from past life events and uses those experiences in order to provide all three of his children everything he can. Being a good father and staying in constant communication is what helps him stay motivated.

Garcia also credits his MMA family for his motivation, work ethic, and MMA success. It's a family whom he continues to learn from and that equips him with the tools he needs to get his job done in the cage. That family is Greg Jackson's Submission Fighting and MMA training camp in Albuquerque, N.M. There, he has some of the most prominent fighters in the world as teammates, many of which are current and past titleholders. The respect the fighters give to their coach and to each other is profound.

“We actually run things by Greg before we go out and do them,” Garcia said. “And when I’ve found myself in some pretty crazy situations, it has been my teammates that have been the first to come to my aid. We are very much a family.”

When asked who some of his favorite fighters are, he was quick to respond.

“Oh definitely my brother Cowboy (Donald Cerrone) because of his style and work ethic. Keith Jardine has always been great to me and I have learned a lot from him,” Garcia said. “I really like the style of Gilbert Melendez and Eddie Alvarez. I think they’re great fighters.”

Given that he mentioned two of the top lightweight fighters in the world, is he thinking about that division again?

“Not right now,” Garcia clarified. “I have so many challengers in the featherweight division here in the WEC. If that pool were to drop, then yes I’d think about lightweight. But right now I’m happy to be here.”

And speaking of challengers in the featherweight division, his next challenge is just days away when he will face Mark “The Machine” Hominick at WEC 51 in Broomfield, Colo. Hominick trains out of Ontario, Canada, on Team Tompkins at the Adrenaline Training Center. Hominick is coming in with an impressive record of 18-8 and is currently on a three-fight winning streak. Garcia believes Hominick will be the most technical fighter he will have faced to date.

“His kickboxing is unbelievable.” Garcia said. “Mark is a very technical and strategic fighter. He will throw three punches to land three punches. And while I go in there and throw three punches to maybe land one, I believe my speed, power, and scrappy method will be a good matchup. But I respect him a lot and think he’s a great fighter.”

WEC 51 will be the first event hosted in Colorado for the World Extreme Cagefighting organization. In addition to the Garcia vs. Hominick matchup, Jose Aldo will defend the WEC featherweight title for a second time facing Manny Gamburyan in the main event. Jamie Varner and Donald Cerrone will finally face each other in their much-anticipated rematch, and Miguel Torres looks to get back on the winning track and end Charlie Valencia’s three-fight winning streak. When asked if he wanted to go on record and give a prediction for the main event bout, Garcia said, “on paper it should go one way. But this is MMA, anything can happen.”

True, anything can happen in MMA. But with Leonard Garcia in the cage, one thing you can count on is a great fight.

WEC 51 will be televised on Versus live at 8 p.m. CT on Thursday.