Mark Munoz has officially found a home in the UFC middleweight division.
After suffering a devastating head kick knockout in his UFC debut courtesy of Matt Hamill, he decided to transition from light heavyweight to middleweight.
The 185-pound limit seems to be the ideal weight for him and it has paid dividends so far as he has since responded with two straight victories inside the Octagon.
Couple that with the fact that his overall skills as a young mixed martial artist have continued to develop and we have a quality contender in the making.
His next challenge will be Ultimate Fighter (TUF) Season 3 winner Kendall Grove at UFC 112 on Saturday, April 10.
The "Filipino Wrecking Machine" took some time out to discuss dealing with Grove's superior length, his ever-improving stand-up, his new gym, and why some decorated wrestlers succeed in MMA (and others fail).
Check it out:
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): You're coming off an impressive victory over Ryan Jensen at UFC 108. Would you consider it your best win to date?
Mark Munoz: Yes, I would say that is my best win to date! I am improving with each fight.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): You seemed much more comfortable and fluid with your stand-up in the Jensen fight. Do you feel like you've taken a big step forward with your striking in the past few months?
Mark Munoz: Being a wrestler, my stand-up has naturally been my weakness. My daily focus is on making my weaknesses my strengths. I constantly seek the knowledge of my striking coaches Abel Nunez and Billy Scheibe. The more I train with these guys, the more comfortable I feel on my feet.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): How much has training with Team Black House improved you as a mixed martial artist? Who are some of the guys over there that have really helped you?
Mark Munoz: Training with some of the best MMA guys in the world will no doubt help me improve. Since they have been at the top and are still there, I know that the techniques they do work. I work with Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira the most. He is amazing is every sense of the word. I thank him tremendously. I also have worked with Anderson Silva and Junior Dos Santos. These guys are also like family to me. Team Black House is like a family. We look out for each other and look for the best interest of one another.
I also have other guys I rely on frequently including King Mo Lawal. Rashad Evans has helped me tremendously recently, Fabricio Werdum, Renato Babalu Sobral, Rafael Cordeiro, Jason Mayhem Miller, Siyar Bahadurzala, Pat Cummins, Jason Lambert, Rafael Davis, Tom Bunbury, and Daniel Pollacia. Not only does training with them improve me technically and physically, but also mentally and spiritually. These are normal everyday people doing extraordinary things. I'm fortunate and blessed to have them to be training partners and friends.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): You also opened your own gym recently. Is this something you have always wanted to do and why?
Mark Munoz: Coaching is one of my passions in life. I always thought I would be coaching college wrestling until I started my mixed martial arts career. Since then, I knew opening a gym would be a perfect fit because it allows me to coach, train, and be with my family all at the same time. Everything all in one place! It's a win, win situation.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): How much time do you spend training at your own gym as opposed to heading over to Team Black House or other gyms?
Mark Munoz: I spend all my time at my gym right now. I spent the last couple of years training at other gyms to get the best trainers possible, but right now there's a lot to be done for my own facility. I have my trainers and training partners come to me for the time being, which I feel very fortunate to have.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): You have a well-decorated collegiate wrestling background but you have made the transition to MMA look relatively easy. Some other guys who have that decorated wrestling base have not been so fortunate. Why do some fail, while others such as yourself, succeed?
Mark Munoz: I believe it's your mindset and how well you deal with adversity, work ethic, and humility. I think this is a huge part of the formula to becoming great not only in MMA but business, athletics, school, or whatever you do. I am constantly learning from everyone I go with. I drill the techniques I learn over and over again and I execute them. I believe some fail because a lot of them can't deal with failure. In my opinion, it takes failure to succeed. My UFC debut ended in a brutal KO in my opponents favor, but I chalked it up as a learning experience and continue to strive forward towards my goal!
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): What is the toughest aspect of transitioning from a wrestler to an MMA fighter?
Mark Munoz: I believe that striking is the toughest part for a wrestler to transition because it is so different from wrestling. Although it has the same principles it takes a while to learn, because the techniques you learn in wrestling have been drilled into our heads for years and years. Trying to go against your instinct takes a while to learn. The only way to learn it is to do it and do it frequently and appropriately.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Kendall Grove is your upcoming UFC 112 opponent. He is extremely tall and lanky and has a big reach. How do you deal with those attributes from a technical standpoint?
Mark Munoz: It's not a secret. I'm a wrestler and I'm looking to take him to the ground and pound him out. I want to neutralize his length by slipping and parrying his punches and kicks, get in close, and take him down.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): We know Grove is dangerous off his back as he showed in his fight with Jake Rosholt. Does this force you to be extra cautious with your movements and your strikes if you find yourself in his guard?
Mark Munoz: I think you always need to be cautious with whoever you fight. Bruce Lee said it best, "Fighting has to have a perfect balance between instinct and control." The only way to be prepared is to practice the right techniques until you get it right and it becomes instinct. That's where your control comes into play.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Do you have an official prediction for the fight?
Mark Munoz: Knockout or submission, 2nd round.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Where do you think a win puts you in the middleweight division? Do you have anyone in mind that you would like to face next if you are fortunate enough to come away with a victory on Saturday?
Mark Munoz: I believe a win will catapult me up in the upper echelon of my division. I'm here to fight and fight whoever the UFC places before me. My main focus is to improve every time I step into the cage.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): The middleweight title is up for grabs on UFC 112 as well. Who wins between Anderson Silva and Demian Maia and what will be the deciding factor in the fight?
Mark Munoz: Anderson Silva will win by TKO in the first round, because of his stand-up and jiu-jitsu abilities.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Any sponsors you would like to thank at this time?
Mark Munoz: I'd like to thank the following: Nate Welter from Warrior International, Art Decuna from OC Nutrition of Laguna Niguel, and Morgan Smith from Boneheads. Thanks to MusclePharm, Lexani and CPIResources for sponsoring for this fight. Last, but not least, my gym Reign Training Center. Go to Train2Reign.com for more details. I'd also like to thank Mike Roberts, Jeff Meyer, Urijah Faber, Andre Julian for being with me from the start and staying with me now. A special thanks goes out to Mike Joker Guymon! Thanks for everything you've done for me! You can also follow me on Twitter at @Mark_Munoz, Facebook, and MarkMunoz.net.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Thanks for your time. Good luck on Saturday.
Mark Munoz: Thank you!
Derek Bolender is a frequent MMAmania.com contributor. He is also a syndicated writer to FoxSports.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/DerekMMAwriter.