Over the last year or so the UFC has put more of an emphasis on exciting fights when it comes to determining the fate of a fighter having a contract with the organization. In years past we would see a fighter go on the dreaded three-fight losing streak and get cut immediately following the third loss, regardless of how they performed. The criteria, at the time, appeared to be only wins and losses. Exceptions to the rule had been made for legends of the sport such as Tito Ortiz, who ended his career by losing seven of his last nine fights. Chuck Liddell, my personal favorite, lost five of his last six and ironically ended his career on a three-fight losing streak.

But times have changed. Now there are cases like that of Leonard Garcia.

Garcia managed to keep himself in the UFC for nine fights (with an eight-fight stint in the WEC inserted between his first three UFC outings and his last six Octagon appearances. He compiled a 2-7 record in the UFC, including five losses in a row, before he was mercifully released by the promotion earlier this month. The UFC came to its senses and realized that no matter how exciting a fighter might be, they have to eventually win a fight. Continuing to keep Garcia on a roster of the best in the world was a slap in the face to those who were cut after one competitive loss (e.g. Caros Fodor). For many veteran fans, it simply didn’t make sense.

During Garcia’s tenure, there weren’t many clamoring to watch him fight. We knew what we were going to get in a Garcia fight. We were going to see wild punches and a solid chin. That’s a recipe for plenty of “Fight of the Night” bonuses—he received four during his UFC career—but it wasn’t necessarily the recipe for a successful fighter.

Although he may have been exciting to watch for the casual fan because of the haymakers that were being thrown, it was an absolute travesty in the sense of how technical striking should look. I still cringe thinking back to his fight against Max Holloway at UFC 155. Both he and Holloway were throwing punches in the same manner I’d expect to see if my two neighbors broke out into a fight. The fight was very sloppy from start to finish, but the Las Vegas crowd loved it because of how many strikes were landing to the head of both fighters.

That is exactly what Garcia’s legacy is going to be.

He’s going to be looked back on as an example of when the UFC catered more to an exciting fight style and less to the wins and losses. When Garcia’s name comes up in conversation, he’ll be known as the guy who lost almost every time he stepped into the Octagon. The last time Garcia actually finished off his opponent was nearly five years ago when he knocked out Jens Pulver at WEC 36. And even Garcia’s lone Octagon win in his most recent stretch with the promotion comes with an asterisk: he took a split decision over Nam Phan in which Garcia’s brawling style seemingly won over the judges just as much as it won over those casual fans.

This is not to say Garcia isn’t a good man, because by all accounts he comes across as one of the most grateful and kind fighters in the business. He’s just not successful when it comes to wins and losses. The next promotion he lands in will no doubt bring him on because of his history of being involved in fights that the casual fan will appreciate. As of now, it looks like the World Series of Fighting is the frontrunner to land Garcia, but it would be very surprising if the 33-year-old is able to put together any sort of impressive streak to work himself back into the UFC.

It’s never good to see anybody lose their job, but there should be explicit standards for the best MMA promotion in the world with regard to success inside the Octagon. Going forward, it’s difficult to envision the UFC allowing any fighter to hang around the roster long enough to sustain five losses in a row. In that regard, Garcia may truly be one of a kind.

Photo: Leonard Garcia (L) (James Law/Heavy MMA)

About The Author

Joe Chacon
Staff Writer

Joe Chacon is a Southern California writer that has also spent time as a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report, as well as a Staff Writer for Operation Sports. Joe has a passion for the sport of MMA, as well as most other sports.