Story courtesy For World Extreme Cagefighting 145-pound fighter Leonard Garcia the path he is about to tread couldn’t be clearer: rebound after a tough year and prove that he belongs on the big stage of mixed martial arts in a new weight class and become a contender.

Starting out 2007, Garcia was building on an impressive 9-1 record when he got the call to join the Ultimate Fighting Championship in April. It was a dream fulfilled that quickly turned unpleasant.

After a rough loss to rising superstar Roger Huerta, Garcia rebounded two months later to get his first UFC win against Allen Berube, but then lost for the second time in the promotion, this time to Cole Miller in September.

In need of a change, he decided to make the move down to a more natural 145 pounds, followed by a move to the WEC, and now he looks to build upon his early promise and make 2008 his year.

“I was excited about being able to fight a guy as tough as Roger (Huerta), but this year I hope to do more,” said Garcia. “Last year I got my name out there, and I feel l should accomplish more than I did.

“Now that I’m going to be at 145, I think it is going to allow me to get to where and do the things I was supposed to do at 155. Last year it was good to get my name out there, but this year is the year I’m going to work towards achieving my goals and get a title somewhere.”

According to Garcia, the move down in weight has gone extremely well and has proven to be very beneficial.

“It’s always been my natural weight class to fight at 145,” he explained. “I used to weigh maybe 152, 153 the day before the fights anyway, so it’s just losing seven more pounds water weight anyway, so I think this will be good for me.

“I’m a little bit faster and I look leaner. Strength-wise everybody thinks I feel stronger now than what I did. I’m doing more push-ups, pull-ups, and cleans, so I’m getting a lot stronger now at 145 than I was at 155.”

Now in a new weight class and promotion, Garcia faces a similar task to that which he had when he made his UFC debut last year; he has to take on an explosive, high energy, top caliber opponent in Hiroyuki Takaya.

“Hiroyuki is a tough guy, so I think that this is going to be one huge step in my career,” he commented. “I don’t think it’s going to be the only step, but I think it’s a pretty big jump coming into the weight class and fighting a guy as high-profile as him.”

As Garcia explains, he feels the fans will get their money’s worth when it comes to this match-up of similarly styled fighters.

“I think he’s a smaller, Japanese version of me – he goes for it and so do I – I think this is going to be a perfect fight for both of us,” said Garcia. “I think the fans shouldn’t blink during this fight, (because) they’re going to see a high-paced impact fight.

“We’re kind of like the old school 1940’s boxers, we’re just going to stand in front of each other and go. I think that’s what the fans are going to see, a good old fashioned slugfest.”

With a new weight class and promotion and an impact fight to prove his skills, Leonard Garcia looks to make Feb. 13 a night to remember in front of his new adopted hometown crowd of Albuquerque, N.M.

“I want to thank all the fans back home in Lubbock, Texas; all the fans here in Albuquerque; Pittman’s Jiu-Jitsu; Greg Jackson’s academy; and all my other sponsors,” closed out Garcia. “To the fans, just letting you know that on paper this looks like Fight of the Night. Don’t blink; don’t take your eyes off the fight for one second, because you’ll miss something.”

“I’m going to give you all everything I’ve got. I don’t know what he’s bringing to the table, but he better bring everything he’s got, because I’m bringing mine.”

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