Mark Munoz Talks Surgery, Return, Silva vs. Sonnen and More
More times than not, a mixed martial artist finds himself fighting as a direct result of his burning desire to compete at such a high level.
However, this wasn't the case at all for UFC middleweight Mark Munoz (12-2), as he never had intentions of becoming a professional fighter.
But a white lie later, Munoz found himself standing amongst some of the greatest fighters in the world which ultimately elevated into a professional career inside the Octagon.
Munoz recently shared with Bleacher Report's Garrett Derr how he was tricked into the sport of mixed martial arts and in result, the hardest part was convincing his wife that it would all work out.
"I never, ever would have thought that I would be fighting for a living. I wrestled at Oklahoma State and really had no plans of pursuing a career in mixed martial arts. At the time, I was really good friends with Urijah Faber. Urijah was training MMA and kept bugging me to give the sport a chance," said Munoz. "I never gave it a chance until one day I finally gave in.
"The first guy I got into the cage with was Randy Couture and I took him down a few times. Randy got up like Randy does and started taking it to me," laughed Munoz. "I loved the competitive aspect of the sport. But I was a wrestler, not a striker at the time."
"Urijah asked me to come spar one day and I told him that I wasn't interested. Then he told me it would only be wrestling so I agreed to go. That wasn't the case at all when I arrived.
"The first thing I saw when we got there were guys strapping on gloves. I knew right then and there I was tricked. I looked at Urijah and he laughed," shared Munoz. "I started sparring and just fell in love with the sport."
While many may consider the rigorous training the hardest part of Munoz's journey—it wasn't at all.
In fact, the most difficult part of Munoz's decision to pursue a career in MMA was seeking his wife's approval.
"The hardest part was coming home and telling my wife that I wanted to pursue a career in fighting," said Munoz. "At first, my wife's image of mixed martial arts was really negative as she thought it would set a bad example for others, especially our kids."
"It was difficult convincing her that this was what I wanted to do for a living. We already had a family started and had four kids of our own," stated Munoz. "But it's what I decided to do and I've been doing it ever since."
Munoz's decision has paid off as he's won four consecutive bouts including his most recent stoppage victory over Chris Leben in the main event at UFC 138.
Following Munoz's win came even bigger news as UFC President Dana White revealed that Leben would be suspended for a full year due to a failed drug test.
Out of the kindness of his heart, not only did Munoz reach out to Leben but he provided him with an open invitation to join his camp.
"It's really a shame about Chris because I really like the guy as a fighter and a person. He's a great guy," shared Munoz. "Every time I see him, I try and catch up with him, as I've gotten to know him more and more over the years."
"I hope he can overcome this difficult time in his life. The stuff he was taking was some serious stuff. It wasn't any type of drug but it was to improve an individual's way of living. I actually invited Chris to come and train with me, and he told me that he might have to take me up on that offer," said Munoz.
Even bigger news broke following Leben's suspension when Munoz had to withdraw from his No. 1 contender's bout with Chael Sonnen which was scheduled to take place on national television at UFC on FOX 2.
Munoz's injury led to a successful surgery as he hopes he'll return better than ever before.
"My injury was brutal, man. I had 24 bone chips removed from my elbow that kind of developed over time from constant training and fighting. You know, I always had pain in my elbow but I always fought through it," stated Munoz. "That's just who I am."
"As time progressed, my injury got worse and worse to the point where I couldn't train with it. So, we got on the phone and the UFC flew me to Las Vegas to get it checked out," stated Munoz. "They determined that I needed immediate surgery and had no idea how I went that long without getting it fixed."
Munoz came clean and revealed that despite coming out on top in four consecutive outings, his injury had certainly taken its toll on his recent performances.
"The injury actually really affected my previous fights even though I was still able to have my hand raised. I had problems defending against the left hook. I would actually hide behind my bicep as it was really the only thing I could do at the time. I also lost power in my punching.
"So, I'm hoping this surgery could be a blessing in disguise," said Munoz. "I'm hoping that I come back better than ever and that this will help me moving forward."
While "The Filipino Wrecking Machine" isn't entirely sure when he'll be back "wrecking" opponents in the Octagon, doctors believe it will be a few months.
"Well, when I originally went in the doctors thought I could possibly make a return at some point in May," said Munoz. "However, after taking a deeper look at things they determined that I would be sidelined until at least June or maybe even into July."
As we've seen in the past, an injury can do more than just jeopardize a fighter's career.
In fact, more times than not a fighter will come back ranked lower than prior to their injury.
However, Munoz believes his current ranking shouldn't be a direct result of his shoulder injury as he's proven time and time again he deserves to fight for the title.
"I don't think that my injury should hurt my position in the middleweight division," stated Munoz. "I believe that I've done everything I can to get to the point where I'm at today."
"I've won four consecutive fights and I was in the position to fight for the No. 1 contender's spot. If I don't get that fight when I return, I'll fight another opponent and then request a title shot. I feel that I deserve it," shared Munoz.
While Munoz missed the opportunity to fight his close friend and fellow 185-pounder Sonnen, it's likely he'll get the chance to in the near future.
And, when he does, it certainly won't be anything personal.
"Chael is one of my very close friends. We've been friends for a while and we wrestled and competed against one another in college," said Munoz. "Every time I see Chael, we pick up where we last left off."
"He's great. You know, I don't mind fighting him because I don't believe fighting should be personal at all. It's a competition between two men. Friends will fight one another and I'm sure Chael and I will eventually have to fight."
If for some reason Munoz doesn't get the opportunity to fight Sonnen, it's very likely he'll be squaring off with the current middleweight champion, Anderson Silva.
Munoz shared his thoughts one whether he believes "The Spider" is in fact ducking the outspoken Sonnen.
"You know, I'm not really sure. I don't know if he is or not because I haven't gotten the chance to talk to him in a while. I'm actually friends with both Chael and Anderson," stated Munoz. "Things got blown out of proportion not too long ago when I stated that I wanted a title shot against Anderson."
"It wasn't anything personal; I just felt that I was ready for the title shot. Anderson always told me that when it was my time to fight for the title that he would already be retired. So, I'm really not sure what he's going to do."
With the future certainly set to take care of itself, Munoz is focused on a speedy and full recover in order to get back to the fighter he once was.
While Munoz's journey back to the top may not be as smooth as he'd like, he'll eventually get there with the help of others.
"My training partners have really helped me develop into the fighter I am today. I feel that I'm a more well-rounded fighter than ever before and a lot of the credit goes to those guys," stated Munoz.
"But like I said earlier, the guy I have to thank the most is Urijah Faber. Urijah is the one who talked me into this whole lifestyle. He literally asked me for a full year to give the sport a chance," said Munoz. "I finally did and he helped guide me through it."
"He's one of my best friends and I owe him a lot for it."
For additional information, follow Garrett Derr on Twitter.
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