Winner of four straight, including victories over Chris Leben, Demian Maia and Aaron Simpson, "The Filipino Wrecking Machine" Mark Munoz was on the cusp of earning his way into title shot contention. Of course, he would have had to get past one Chael Sonnen at UFC on Fox 2, which was scheduled to go down on Jan., 28, 2012, in Chicago, Illinois.
The winner between the former college wrestling rivals was set to receive a title shot against Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Middleweight champion Anderson Silva, but a few weeks before the fight, Munoz broke the bad news that he had suffered an elbow injury in preparation for his bout with Sonnen.
Michael Bisping was then given the co-main event slot against Chael and went on to lose the bout via unanimous decision, giving Sonnen his long desired rematch against "The Spider." Sitting on the sidelines was Munoz, left to think with what could have been.
Now, three months removed from his injury, the former NCAA Division 1 wrestling champion is eager to step back into the Octagon and prove his worth as a top contender in the UFC's 185-pound division.
Speaking to MMA Frenzy, Munoz talks about the injury that forced him out of his number one contender's fight on Fox and who he feels would be a good matchup for him once he is ready to come back this summer.
Check it out:
"I feel great. I'm training and sparring, I feel really good. For the past few years I've had problems with my elbow. I kept ignoring it until they found out I had some bone spurs after my fight with Chris Leben. My elbow was throbbing and the pain was so great, my doctors told me I needed surgery, but by that time I was already informed of the fight with Sonnen for the FOX 2 card and I didn't want to pass up that opportunity. While I was training my elbow popped and it felt a lot worse than it ever had before. I tried to work through it, but it was too much to bear. I tried to pick up my gym bag and I couldn't even lift it."
Though Munoz is not 100 percent healed yet, he should be ready to get back into the swing of things by July:
"It turns out that those bone spurs had made their way into my joints. They ended up pulling out 24 pieces of bone six of which were a centimeter and a half in diameter. I was so disappointed afterwards because I had been waiting to get a title shot for a long time, but everything happens for a reason and now I am coming back stronger than before. There is still a little bit of pain, but it's only been a few months so that's to be expected. I am definitely looking forward to getting back inside the Octagon and continuing on towards a shot at the championship. I fought eight times in three years; the fight with Sonnen would've been my ninth fight in 26 months. I'm not sure when I'll be back for sure, but my doctors are optimistic about being able to fight in July."
"The Filipino Wrecking Machine" has recently been linked to a possible fight with up-and-coming Chris Weidman, who was last seen defeating submission wizard Demian Maia at UFC on Fox 2 this past January. Munoz, for one, would not mind being matched up with Weidman:
"I have been hearing those same rumors as well. I feel like I match him up against him really well. He has great stand-up and he is a solid wrestler who takes people down and uses top control to force his will on them. He has good BJJ and is always looking for submissions and chokes. I am definitely looking forward to that fight if it does happen. I want to fight someone who makes sense, someone who is going to get me closer to a title shot. I feel like I have earned that opportunity and by defeating someone of Weidman's caliber I believe I would deserve a title shot."
Weidman, ironically enough, benefited from Mark's unfortunate injury. After Munoz was forced out of the bout, he was replaced by "The Count," who was originally set to take on Maia, leaving the jiu-jitsu ace without an opponent. After Rousimar Palhares turned the bout down against his fellow countrymen, Weidman agreed to step up and fill the vacant slot on 11 days notice.
After keeping his perfect record intact by getting past Maia, Chris immediately jumped up the rankings and got himself right in the mix of the middleweight division. Now, a potential fight with Munoz could be looming for the young undefeated prospect, in what could prove to be his toughest test to date in his blossoming fight career.
What say you, does a match up between Munoz and Weidman intrigue you? Who would take this battle of former NCAA Division-1 wrestlers?