I recently met up with UFC superstar Mark Munoz, 35, the “Filipino Wrecking Machine” in Lake Forest, Calif. at the Reign Training Center.
It was obvious right off the bat that Munoz is very personable and wears his heart on his sleeve. I couldn’t help but wonder how he could actually transform into a human “Wrecking Machine.” I let him know my thoughts right away.
“Yea… I’m a big softy,” divulged Munoz. “Growing up, I never would have dreamed I would be where I am today. I shrugged away from conflict as a kid. That all changed though… one day I was jumped and beaten by a guy.”
This experience led one of his friends to suggest he learn to wrestle.
“I laughed and told him wrestling’s a silly sport… with guys all dressed in tights touching each other in strange places,” joked Munoz. “I didn’t want any of it. Before I could say anymore, my buddy knocked my legs out from under me and pinned me. My life’s course was instantly altered… I was sold.”
His wrestling career began when he was 13-years-old. He quickly learned he had talent. Stronger than most kids his age, he began practicing with the high school varsity team. AT 14, Munoz won his first championship.
As we dove further into conversation, he answered the following questions:
You seem to be a very peaceful and non-violent human being, so how do you do it?
“It’s obvious… I don’t have a killer instinct like some. It’s not natural to me. I’ve had to learn over the years to turn on an invisible switch. When it’s turned on, the competitor in me comes alive. I focus purely on my goals and what I’ve practiced in training camp.”
“It’s not about hurting anyone. To me MMA is an honorable competition using four different amazing disciplines — wrestling, Jiu-Jitsu, kickboxing, and boxing. As competitors, we use our skills and then shake hands as friends when it’s all over.”
What is your greatest strength in the cage?
“I’m a wrestler at heart, so naturally grappling techniques are my strong point. The hardest thing for me in the beginning was striking. It was hard for me to feel right about kicking or punching another human being. I continually have to work to improve in this area.”
Have you ever been afraid when fighting?
“No. Fear never enters into the picture for me. Every time I get in the cage, I’m confident that I’ve practiced the right things and am prepared. I trust my team and know that we’ve developed a winning strategy.”
Any low points in your career?
“Yes, actually. Back in 2012 I was hurt bad. Afterward, I went a deep depression and turned to food for comfort. Next thing I knew I weighed 262 pounds. I finally healed and my team worked with me to get into amazing shape. A year later I returned to fighting and walked away with a win. It really made me realize the importance of my team and reinforced the idea that anything is possible with hard work and dedication.”
Do you have any advice for aspiring fighters?
“Find a gym that inspires you. They’re all sorts of gyms popping everywhere… and it’s best to try a few of them before committing. Each spot has its own personality and vibe. You’ll get along in some and not in others. Find out where you feel comfortable and motivated.”
“You also gotta know your strengths and weaknesses. It’s impossible to be good at every part of MMA. Like me, you may be a strong wrestler and find striking a challenge. Once you know what you’re good at, you can capitalize on your skills and choose areas of improvement.”
What are you passionate about beyond MMA?
“My family. I’m a dedicated husband and parent. We all work together to build a home that’s centered around unconditional love and measurable achievements. There’s no rest for the weary in the Munoz family.”
“I’m also committed to inspiring future generations. I speak at schools and other places about the ‘Five Ds’ — Desire, Direction, Diligence, Discipline, and Dedication. To get anywhere meaningful, you’ve gotta apply these concepts — otherwise you’re probably not reaching your potential.”
Do you have any plans for retirement? If so, what will you do with your time after retirement?
“I don’t have any concrete plans quite yet, but that time is definitely coming sooner than later. I’m no youngster anymore. My goal after retirement is to share my life story and message with youth and adults. And I’ll pour myself into my gym (The Reign Training Center). My guy currently offers instruction on wrestling, Jiu-Jitsu, kickboxing, and boxing. It’s also a place where aspiring fighters — pros to — can feel at home.”
Any parting words you’d like to share with your fans?
“Get disciplined and make something happen in your life. The coolest part of life is that you can shape your days any way you’d like. Don’t let your fears and laziness get in the way. Believe me, I know how easy it is to fall into bad patters. I just choose to stay dedicated to excellence.”
As a post note to our interview, Munoz — along with his sponsor XYIENCE — has committed to holding an MMA wrestling seminar and fundraiser to benefit the victims of Typhoon Yolanda.
Participate and you can meet Munoz on January 11, 2014 at the Treasure Island Event Venue in San Francisco.
The address is 401 California Avenue, and the event will run between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. This includes an autograph session with the UFC middleweight. The fee is $80, with proceeds going to typhoon victims in the Philippines.