Mark Munoz's young career has not been without adversity but ultimately "The Filipino Wrecking Machine" has used his mis-steps as a roadmap to strengthen his game. In the final installment of his Bloody Elbow Exclusive interview Munoz discussed a possible solution to the current dilemma in MMA judging, what he learned from Yushin Okami and why developing other fighters is what inspired him to open his Reign Training Facility in Lake Forest California.
"The reason why I opened up Reign was due to the fact that there were not many gyms in the Orange County area that had a team atmosphere," Munoz stated. "When I came down here to train there were so many big guys in the area that I felt it was the place I needed to be. My wife actually pointed it out to me that we needed to move down here and get something started because there were tons of potential training partners and we have family in the area. It was her suggestion that we leave northern California and I knew she was right although it took me about six months and a few spirited debates to figure that out," Munoz laughed.
"So I left my job, we moved out and one thing lead to another where I actually ended up befriending a lot of these guys and now they are all coming by the gym. I never thought in a million years that I would have a gym but here we are. Normally you see guys who have been around for years and who have more prestige in the sport of mixed martial arts who own gyms. Fighters like Randy Couture, Wanderlei Silva...they have their own gyms and they have been in the sport for a long time. I have only been fighting for two years and I have my own gym. Sometimes I wonder if I deserve it but when people see how much I want to give back and how much I hope to develop people in their wrestling and how hard I work then it just feels awesome. For me it's not about having this great facility it's about the people that fill up this facility...the quality of people that work together with one goal, one mind and operate as a unit. We are breaking each other down physically but building one another up mentally and spiritually and that's what it's all about for me. Plus there is an atmosphere here that I both wanted and needed and that is what helps make the environment we have at Reign special."
While Munoz and his team of fighters may sharpen their skills inside the walls of the gym, the sport itself is experiencing a burst in popularity unmatched by any other sport at this time. As the discussion turned back to mixed martial arts the focus shifted to the recent attention brought to MMA judging in light of the decision handed down in the Nam Phan vs. Leonard Garcia matchup earlier this month.
"I actually believe the judges should have at least some experience in what we are doing and show some consistency in the way they judge," Munoz offered. "When it comes to these shows and you never know who is going to win the fight despite how the match played out and that tells you something. Look at this last fight between Nam Phan and Leonard Garcia. Everyone thought that Phan won and the judges turn around and hand Garcia the win. It's so inconsistent and I truly believe that judges should be ex-fighters or have trained to fight because they don't know what goes on inside of the octagon. They are judging fights based off of what they can see but they can't see everything that goes on during close contact. If you were training or had fought professionally then you would know what was happening during every exchange or transition in the fight."
Under the "10 point must" system currently used in mixed martial arts judges award 10 points to the fighter they feel won the round and score the frame a 9 or 8 based on the amount of dominance displayed. While it is in their power to do so judges rarely score a 10-10 round and despite every contest needing a winner and a loser, some bouts are simply too close to call.
More from Munoz in the full entry.
"Judges are terrified to give a draw because for some reason they feel that one person is walking out with a "W", Munoz stated. "It's always been that way. Draws happen...but in mixed martial arts you rarely ever see them. There have been fights I've watched where it would have been the only answer but I'm not sure what is preventing them from using draws or more 10-10 rounds. I don't know if there is an unspoken rule in MMA judging but sometimes these decisions don't make any sense."
"I'm a little upset about the Okami decision," Munoz continued. "I truly feel that I did enough to win that fight and was unaware that they awarded points for defending shots. Okami actually played the cage very well and used it to his advantage because his whole thing was to stuff my head to the side. Okami did really well at disengaging and then engaging again to score. He's very good at scoring points and that shows his experience in the sport. He has three times the amount of fights that I've had and he's been in the sport five times longer. I give him credit for that but at the same time I feel that I did enough to win the fight but hey...that's just how it goes some times. I'm the type of guy where you win some you lose some. It's a win regardless of how the judges saw it because now I have the confidence and believe I belong in the top echelon of fighters in my division. I'm always going to take tough fights and keep pressing forward. I don't see myself as a boring fighter because of my tenacity. That's how it's been and will continue to be in all of my fights. I think the confidence I gained from the Okami fight was visible when I faced Aaron Simpson because I believe in my stand up now and I know I can compete with anyone.
While nothing has been made official Munoz's next opponent is rumored to be another former ASU wrestler C.B. Dollaway. The TUF alum, much like Munoz, is considered to be a fighter on the rise in the UFC and "The Doberman" is coming off an impressive "Submission of the Night" victory over Joe Doerksen at UFC 119. If Munoz and Dollaway do meet in 2011 they will be just one of a handful of matchups that pit the organization's up and coming talent against one another in competition with the most high profile bout coming between Jon "Bones" Jones and TUF winner Ryan Bader at UFC 127.
"It's hard to go undefeated in this sport and up and comers will cross paths somewhere along the way," Munoz answered when asked about the UFC matching up rising talent. "This isn't like boxing where you will see fighters who have records of 40-0 or 45-2...you don't see that in mixed martial arts. You see guys that are very good who have quite a few losses and that's because we are fighting top competition and we are not afraid to fight whoever they put in front of us. That is what Dana White is trying to do. He's trying to get the best fighters out there to fight each other as well as putting together the fights the public wants to see. You have to give it to Dana a little bit because he's worked hard to put on fights the public wants to see and this has contributed to the rise of the UFC and mixed martial arts."
Munoz knows that he still has work to do if he plans to reach his ultimate goal in mixed martial arts and to become a champion in the UFC means that every time he comes out of the gate he will be facing the best competition in the sport. In a division long ruled by the fighter some consider the best pound for pound fighter in the world Munoz knows obtaining the title will be no easy task but is excited for journey ahead.
"I think I'm two fights away from a title shot," Munoz replied when asked where he fit into the middleweight picture. "The loss against Okami probably put me down a little bit but I'm not sure. I would have thought my next fight would have come against a Top 5 opponent but I don't know yet so we'll see. I do believe I'm up towards the top of the division so more than likely it will take two wins to put me at a title shot but we'll see how it goes. My job right now is to win fights, put on a good show and beat the best guys in my division."
Over the course of the interview Munoz shared his insights on a full array of topics both personal and general to the sport that he has fallen in love with. From the detailed journey of his own career to his involvement in the development of others, Mark Munoz works relentlessly to make a contribution to the sport of mixed martial arts. With the interview coming to a close Munoz took the final moments to share sincerities with those who have played such a crucial role and in doing so Munoz did not forget to show his appreciation for those who may have overlooked him.
"I want to thank all of my fans who have been with me from the beginning because I had a rocky start and I know a lot of people wrote me off, hopped off the band wagon but there were those people who stuck with me and believed I was going to do something in this sport," Munoz stated. "I thank all of my fans and actually thank the haters as well because they fuel the flame for me to get better. The only advice I would give someone is to know that they can shoot for the stars. When you put your mind to it and do it wholeheartedly you can accomplish your goals...whatever they may be. As for me...I love life. I have an awesome family, an awesome gym and amazing people around me. I'm a man of faith as well so I take full advantage of that and choose to believe that God has blessed me. I love my life and plan to live it to the fullest so I just want to thank everybody and thank you as well for this interview."