Mark Munoz off to Germany seeking first 2014 win

Mark Munoz off to Germany seeking first 2014 win
May 29, 2014, 9:45 am
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Mark Munoz bookended a victory over Tim Boetsh with defeats to Chris Weidman and Lyoto Machida in his last three fights. (USATSI)

Nitesh Dutt

Coming off a loss is never easy for any athlete. UFC Middleweight Mark Munoz (13-4-0) has felt the sting of defeat twice since 2012, and for the second time, Munoz will look to bounce back against another top-tier middleweight. This time, the “Filipino Wrecking Machine” faces off with Gegard “The Dreamcatcher” Mousasi (34-4-2) Saturday night in Germany.

In one of the more intriguing storylines of this bout, both fighters are coming off loses to Lyoto Machida. Munoz lost via head kick KO in October of last year while Mousasi was defeated by unanimous decision this past February.

For Munoz, the loss to Machida was beyond a physical setback.

“That fight was probably the most mentally difficult fight I've fought in my career.” Munoz told Inside Fight Sports. “One day we were training together -- all grappling-based -- and then our striking coach ended up in his corner. It wasn't the most favorable situation for me, but that's how it goes.”

With the loss behind him, the Lake Forest, California-based fighter who heads Orange County's Reign MMA fight team has his sights set on Mousasi and the future.

“Mousasi has always been a top middleweight since I could remember in MMA ... this fight is pivotal in both our careers to get back to where we want to go, and that is to compete for a world title.”

Ranked No. 7 in the UFC, Munoz is in the position to jump into title contention with a dominant victory. Pitting Munoz’s ground-and-pound style with Mousasi’s jiu-jitsu technique suggests this bout could be decided in exciting fashion on the mat.

Not known for trash-talking, Munoz had these words for Mousasi, “For my opponent Gegard Mousasi, this is going to be a fun fight. May the best man win.”

Mark Munoz's 1-on-1 interview with Inside Fight Sports:

Q: You're coming off of a tough loss to Lyoto Machida, what did you learn and take away from that bout?
A: That fight was probably the most mentally difficult fight I've fought in my career. The way I found out about the fight was so abrupt, one day we were training together, all grappling based and then our striking coach ended up in his corner. It wasn't the most favorable situation for me, but that's how it goes sometimes. And I just have to pick up where I left off and continue to strive to get better. Having said that, I learned a tremendous amount after the loss. I cannot be worried about what someone is going to do, I have to focus on what I do best and still have in mind what my opponent does but still execute and concentrate on what I'm going to do. It was as if I had paralysis by analysis. That was the biggest lesson I learned.

Q: It's recently been learned that Michael Bisping has begun training alongside you, what can someone like that bring to your fight preparation?
A: Yes, Michael Bisping has been training with me at Reign Training Center in South Orange County, Lake Forest, CA. He brings a lot of things into the gym. He's a very hard worker and also possesses a lot of skills as far as striking. He gives us a different look and is very competitive in the room. To bring in someone of his caliber only makes the level of our gym better. He also gets along with everyone inside the gym and has enough humility to accept advice and instruction. He's a great addition to our stable of fighters.

Q: Gegard Mousasi has long been considered a top middleweight in MMA, how much are you looking forward to this fight?
A: Yes, Gegard Mousasi has always been a top middleweight since I could remember in MMA. This is going to be a very competitive fight. I'm looking forward to this fight very much because this fight is pivotal in both our careers to get back to where we want to go and that is to compete for a world title.

Q: What are some facets of his game do you find similar to your own?
A: Although we are very different in styles, he's more of a striker and I'm more of a grappler and ground and pounder, we do have some similarities. We are both finishers and tenacious inside the octagon. He's very aggressive and so am I and we both possess knock out power.

Q: Anything you think could be used against him?
A: I believe this fight is going to encompass all facets of MMA. You'll see us striking, wrestling, doing Jiu Jitsu, and cage work. It is a matter of who executes their game plan the best. This fight is going to be won in transition of those disciplines.

Q: You've fought overseas before, but never in Germany. Is it always fun to go overseas to fight?
A: Yes, I find it enjoyable to fight overseas. How often to you get to do what you love for work and travel the world at the same time? I'm blessed!

Q: Even with all your training and UFC commitments, you maintain your relationship with fans really well and have proven to be a great role model. What's it like knowing that so many young people look up to you?
A: I take my platform and use it to make a lasting impact on whoever I come into contact with. No matter if it's my own family, elementary school, middle school, high school students, MMA fighters, wrestlers, fans, or friends, I'm using my talents, gifts, and abilities to impact in a positive way and to hopefully change lives in the process. I’ve also kept busy with Team Munoz by holding a series of fundraisers to support the victims of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. So far, through training seminars, UFC viewing parties and merchandise sold on MarkMunozMMA.com, we’ve raised $8,000 support the victims and we will continue to raise funds after the fight.

Through my gym, I'm able to mold, motivate, and model how it should be to be successful in all facets of someone's life mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I know that there are a lot of younger students and people following but I love using it to bring people to the realization that life can be so much better through being fit, not only physically but mentally and spiritually.

Q: One of the things you've shown to be passionate about is your homeland, the Philippines. With there being an ever-growing MMA fan base there, would you urge Dana White and the UFC to take a show to the country?
A: Yes!!!!! I would definitely highly recommend there be a UFC show there in the Philippines! The fans out there are knowledgeable about the sport and are eager for it. It's going to happen! It's only a matter of time now.

Q: Any final words to your fans, followers and maybe even a little something for Mousasi?
A: Thank you to all my fans that have supported me. To my family, friends, and training partners I love you from the bottom of my heart and thank you for making me better every day. Finally, for my opponent Gegard Mousasi, this is going to be a fun fight. May the best man win! Magtaas taas ng Pilipinas. Laban natin to! Thanks for the interview!!