In the lead-up to perhaps the biggest fight of his career, Mark Munoz is exuding confidence.
He'll have an opportunity to showcase just that on Saturday night (June 11, 2011).
"The Filipino Wrecking Machine" has put a hurting on the middleweight division ever since dropping down from the land of the light heavyweights in late 2009.
The former national champion wrestler was a guest on Pro MMA Radio this week where he discussed a variety of topics from his upcoming fight against Maia, a potential bout against Anderson Silva and how his training partner Jason Miller will fair as a coach on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF).
Find out who's helped him advance his striking the most after the jump.
While originally making his name because of his absolutely brutal ground and pound. Mark's striking has improved by leaps and bounds in his last two UFC fights. Nowhere was that more evident than in his last fight with C.B. Dollaway. Munoz rocked "The Doberman" standing and scored a lightning-quick knockout inside the fight's first minute.
"I knew right away when I connected I was like, 'Oh, I've never felt that before in my life,' and I saw him kinda stumble a bit and I thought, 'I got him!' and I quickly followed up with an uppercut and a straight right and my signature ground and pound. I felt it all the way through."
Who does Munoz give credit for his progression in his striking skills? Look no further than his plethora of top training partners and coaches at both Reign Training Center and King's MMA.
"Lately I've been working with two guys, Master Rafael Cordeiro, the original Chute Box coach and Abel Nunez, who's been with me for a really long time. We've been sharpening my boxing skills and I've been working with those guys. They've been helping me tremendously. I have a bunch of guys in the gym who help me out as well. Krzysztof Soszynski helps me out. There's so many guys that give me tips about what to do and it's awesome. I'm a part of a great team here at Reign Training Center and over at King's MMA. I'm happy where my progression is for sure."
As is the case often in MMA, when two fighters with a specialty in the ground match up, the bout is often decided by their stand-up striking skills. If that's the case tomorrow night, "The Filipino Wrecking Machine" believes he'll have no problem securing a victory over the former title challenger. One thing is for certain, he'll be looking for the finish as long as he still has breath in his lungs.
"I feel that my power in general, I have the upper hand with my overhand right. If we traded punch for punch, I believe I would win in that situation. I don't believe he would want to stand up with me. We'll see though. He's proven in his last fights that he's willing to stand up with people but at the same time, I've seen him take people down and trick them because they think he'll stand with them. He's even taken down very very good wrestlers. This is MMA, it's not just wrestling so there's a chance he could take me down and I know that. I'm prepared wherever the fight goes and I welcome the stand-up, the ground and the cage. Everyone who watches me fight, they know me to not just score points. I'm not a guy that just jabs and tip-toes around. I'm looking to finish every second of the fight. I throw bombs. He'll have to mind his P's and Q's when he's in the cage with me."
Mark was surprised to find out that he's the betting favorite in the fight with Maia. He takes it as a huge compliment but he wanted to make sure that everyone knows how serious he's taking this match. He's a completely different person once those cage doors close.
"It's great I'm the favorite. I'd rather be the underdog to be honest with you. I never paid attention to the rankings, even in wrestling I never paid attention to it. I knew who was good, I just didn't know how they were ranked. I was the type of guy that when I was in the room, I was in the room. When I was out of the room, I put it on the shelf and went home and relaxed a bit. If you're intense the whole time and think about it the whole time, you burn yourself out. People always tell me, 'wow, you're totally different inside the cage,' and I'm like, 'man, if I was the same person outside the cage that I am inside the cage, I'd have no friends.'"
If the former college wrestling champion can secure a victory on Saturday night, he'll elevate his status in the middleweight division to serious contender. He knows that his good friend Anderson Silva is sitting atop the division and has no qualms about fighting friends. It was something he dealt with in college while competing for starting spots on the team and he's had to fight two friends in his last two fights just to earn his current standing.
"[Anderson Silva's] a great friend of mine. A super-super friend of mine. This is a bridge that we'll cross when we come to it. Demian Maia is on my mind right now. I would certainly not look past Demian. I want to be a world champion, obviously. We know full well that we're in the same weight class but we practiced together anyways ... We could still have a barbecue together. We could still be friends. I fought Aaron Simpson and C.B. and we were friends at the time but that helped me to get where I'm at now. It's business, you can't take it personal. "
Mark's good friend and training partner Jason "Mayhem" Miller was recently tabbed to be a coach on the next season of The Ultimate Fighter against Michael Bisping. He was more than happy to share his opinion on how this season will play out.
"Oh, he's gonna get under his skin so bad. It's gonna be comical (laughs). It's gonna be great season of The Ultimate Fighter. He's a personality. He's awesome in front of a camera. Mayhem's gonna win the fight for sure, hand's down. He's developed so much as a fighter ever since the time that he was in the UFC until he got back in the UFC. I see Mayhem winning in all aspects. He's very hard to take down, his striking is great and his jiu-jitsu is awesome."
While his friend Jason Miller is coaching this upcoming season of TUF, the UFC has already stated that they plan on expanding The Ultimate Fighter internationally. If they ever hold a season in The Philippines, Mark would love to throw his hat in the ring.
"It would be a tremendous honor to coach the TUF Philippines because that's where it all started. That's my motherland. I have yet to go to the Philippines since I was young. The culture runs through my veins with the way I was raised, the food, the garb. It was rich in my household and I'd love to go back and give back to the country and do the things I can to improve the sport there and the country as well."
So Maniacs, is Munoz getting ahead of himself?
How do you like his chances against Maia tomorrow night?