Leonard Garcia takes on Joe Elmore at BKFC 16 in the main event which is set to go down on March 19th.
The pugilistic proceedings take place at Biloxi Civic Center in Biloxi, Mississippi, and broadcasts on FITE TV as well as the Bare Knuckle TV app.
Below are several excerpts from my recent conversation with Garcia ahead of this top of the marquee contest.
Training for this big return to bare-knuckle boxing
“Fantastic, man. I know against a guy like Elmore, you need a gas tank. You need to have some firepower. So I’m getting everything put together for him. Hopefully, he’s doing the same thing and we both meet each other on an equal playing field and get it on.”
Elmore being 2-0 in BKFC and his fight approach to taking on the number one ranked guy at 165 lbs
“Joe’s definitely a unique individual and he brings a very unorthodox style. It’s really tough to bring guys in to get ready for a guy like Elmore. Because he doesn’t take a traditional approach or boxing approach. He kind of slugs from every direction but every hand has power. He generates power from short distances. So it’s a scary fight to prepare for. I’ve watched lots of his tapes and then I’ve tried to study them. But like you said he’s very unpredictable.”
“So I’m just going in and trying to get them to throw things at me when I’m sparring to see if I can visualize them coming in. Physically throwing other objects during sparring from awkward directions and if they hit me that could be a shot that I take. So it’s a little different, man. You got to prepare differently for every fight and I hope I’m doing all the right things. I hope you guys see the fruits of it whenever I get in there.”
Working with fellow BKFC fighter and former Elmore opponent Tom Shoaff
“Yeah, you know, Tom Shoaff is a big name. He’s the guy who faced him (Elmore) for the five rounds that he went the last time. So having Shoaff down here has been a really good mental value for me. A good edge to keep on and like he told me you know, everything changes with body style and shape and different sizes. But he kind of had a decent idea of what Elmore was coming with.”
Goals for the vacant 165 lb BKFC title
“I own the 165 lb international title. He’s ranked number one. I think being a titleholder and holding that number one ranking proves exactly what I said whenever I came to BKFC. That this was something that was made for guys like me.”
Improvements Leonard Garcia has made through his BKFC tenure so far
“When I had got signed to BKFC, course you know I run a company now. I was just working full time. Four years out of the game and I was still kind of training but not really in it. And I took the Julian Lane fight on a five-week notice. I basically walked out of the office, went and trained for five weeks and then I went and won that fight. And that was really a big curse to me because it gave me the false sense of I don’t have to do anything but train for four weeks or five weeks and I’ll be ready.”
“I went out there with Jim (Alers) and all the credit to Jim. He went out there and he did a fantastic job. He punched me right in the eyeball and it really did a lot of damage. I mean he did what a fighter is supposed to do, you find a weakness and you go for it. I had no way of seeing out of that eye, man. But I know that if you say those words when you’re in the corner to a referee or to a judge, if you say I can’t see they’re gonna stop the fight. Never once did I think about saying I can’t see. But I couldn’t see out of my left eye.”
“And I have a couple pictures where my eye’s completely swollen. I got blood all on there on my lashes. It’s very painfully obvious that I can’t see. It changed a lot of things for me. It put a lot of things into perspective. And it made me realize, you know, sitting around and waiting for the next fight or for the next call, and then picking up and starting to train isn’t the way to go. So you’re exactly right, it changed the nuance and changed everything else.”
“I became a professional BKFC fighter for a reason. And for this last year and two months, I’ve been physically trying to get better and better. I’ve bettered my body. I’ve bettered myself physically and mentally. The unfortunate thing about winning is you never learn nothing off of a win. Other than what you did was good. But you learn so much more from the loss and I’m grateful for Jim (Alers) for putting that into perspective for me.”
Leonard Garcia vs Joe Elmore
“Like you said I am definitely chomping at the bit to show people that I have been working for this last year and a half…So I feel fantastic and I’m ready to get in there and show everybody, the small things that I’ve been working but really, just to show people that I have been working now.”
Joe Elmore addressing Leonard Garcia saying “He’s a legend but I believe I’m the legend killer”
“When you say things building up to a fight, sometimes you say things out of emotion and you say things that you don’t necessarily mean them by disrespect. Joe’s a fantastic guy, man. We actually have a really good relationship and it’s weird because you know we try to knock people’s heads off when we get in there. But I think, saying things like that, I believe he feels like he’s the number one guy in the world. And if he feels he has a right to say something like that, that’s fantastic,. Let him say it. Unfortunately for him, there’s going to be a time to prove it.”
Garcia vs Elmore
“My dad used to give this statement a lot. I don’t know if it’s a good statement to say but he was like ‘man, when it’s nut cuttin time, you’re gonna find out if you’re ready to go’. So I know he’s ready to fight, man. After making a comment like that, you got to live up to it. So I’m going to do my best to be a legend and not get killed and he’s gonna do his best to be the legend killer.”
“So, we’ll see if the legend lives on or if it gets killed. But I’m banking on being a legend, and legendary things happen when things are said. I mean I don’t take it as a disrespectful quote. I completely understand where his mindset is. And I want him to think he can beat me, because it’s my job to go in there and prove that he can’t.”
Garcia’s son being in the famous photo near Nate Diaz when he tried to light up the joint cage side
“Oh yeah. My kid’s right behind Nate (Diaz) whenever that happened. It was a funny story. We get along really well with Nate. We’re sitting there with him. It was funny because that night, Cowboy (Donald Cerrone) who is also a really close family relative and Nate’s boy, Yancy (Medeiros) they were fighting each other.”
“So we were kind of rivals but me and Nate are great friends. We got to sit there together and my family got to meet him. Nate’s a fantastic guy, man. I’d really be eager to see Nate come into bare-knuckle and do some damage as well.”
A parting thought for Leonard Garcia
“Of course you know first and foremost man thank God for the opportunity. And understanding, he’s with us at every step. My family, man. For sticking with me and letting me just fulfill a dream. I love to compete, I love to fight, and the opportunity to be number one was there. They’re there right behind me and they’re giving me that opportunity. So to them thank you and also the fans, man. For never giving up on me and always knowing that I always go out there and give you guys a great show.”
“And just those three things, man. Of course all the sponsors. Anybody who is willing to give me a little bit of money to flash their logo out there, it’s a big deal and it really helps out. I mean just BKFC for putting this sport together. Dave Feldman, you’ve been fantastic. And, all respect to Joe Elmore, man. Let’s go out there and let’s do what we say we’re going to do. Let the legend live on or you can try to kill the legend and let’s see how it goes, buddy.”
I’ve been enamored with combat sports for as long as I can remember. I’ve hosted MMA talk shows Lights Out and Pure Fight Radio with featured guests like Jens Pulver, Roy Nelson, Miesha Tate, Mark Coleman, and more. I’ve been an MMA broadcaster for XFFC as well as BTC and have done play by play commentary on live pay per view on GFL as well as FITE TV. I’ve provided written, audio, and video content covering some of the biggest MMA promotions like Rumble in the Cage, Unified MMA, and King of the Cage. I’ve worked as a sports entertainment personality for over five years and given play-by-play or featured promotions of KSW, ONE Championship, TKO, and Invicta FC. My work can be found in the USA Today Sports affiliate MMA Torch, Cageside Press, MMA Sucka, and Liberty Multimedia.