by Brian Lopez-Benchimol – MMAWeekly.com
After a botched initial debut and a new weight class sometime later, Mark Munoz has arrived in the UFC.
The wrestling powerhouse, who spent the better part of his career in the light heavyweight division before discovering a lighter pallet of food and a whole new workout regime, now finds himself in the mix of the middleweight division.
With two wins under his belt at 185 and training alongside some of the greats that mixed martial arts has to offer, Munoz is poised to extend himself to three-in-a-row inside the Octagon when he returns to action Saturday for the UFC’s inaugural venture to Abu Dhabi.
“Oh man. I’ve assembled an all-star cast,” said Munoz of his training partners who prepped him for his showdown with Kendall Grove at UFC 112.
“I have King Mo (Muhammed Lawal). I have Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. I have Junior Dos Santos… (Renato) Babalu, Rashad (Evans) has been coming in the last two weeks. I’ve got big tall guys in Daniel Palencia and then I have Tom Bunbury,” he continued while speaking with MMAWeekly.com.
“(Daniel and Tom are) real strong, just there to show me how to get the reach down. I’m unbelievably blessed, beyond honored to have the training partners that I do.”
Reach is something that the “Philippino Wrecking Machine” will look to overcome once he’s locked inside the Octagon opposite “The Ultimate Fighter Season 3″ winner, Hawaiian Kendall Grove, who stands at a staggering six feet six inches in height.
“I brought in six-foot-six, six-foot-seven guys with a very long reach,” said the former collegiate Division 1 wrestler, while a guest on MMAWeekly Radio.
“Studying a lot of tape on Kendall and seeing a lot of dependencies and I brought in some jiu-jitsu guys who have a really good ground game. For me, I do study a lot of my opponents and its just getting used to that reach, getting inside and defending submissions on the ground, while implementing my strategy as I’m in the cage. That’s all that I’m doing for this fight.”
While most fighters tend to be trepidacious when it comes to fighting friends, Munoz and Grove have been able to put their friendship on the back burner, maintaining it outside the cage in order to deliver an action packed bout in it, which both men have been known to serve up.
“My conditioning is awesome,” said the surging middleweight.
“I’m definitely going to have a high paced fight and I’m going to let the chips fall where they may. I’m very excited for this fight coming up and I’m ready to go.”
While Munoz’ base remains his high-level wrestling pedigree, which garnered him all-American honors on several occasions, he continues to improve in areas which he considers to be lacking. And while mild-mannered in person, Munoz is the last person you want raining punches over you.
“When I do step into the cage, I do flip the switch,” said the 32-year-old.
Two years into the sport and undefeated as a middleweight in the UFC, it’s safe to say that he is improving.
“I haven’t been training for more than two years yet,” proclaimed the Capital City Fighting Alliance member.
“I’m very new and very raw and groomed right now. For me to keep learning and keep improving every time I step in there, that’s exactly what I want. I want people to see a new and improved Mark Munoz every time I step into the cage.”