UFC 162: The metamorphosis of Mark Munoz and his journey back from depression

Photo courtesy of Esther Lin for MMA Fighting

UFC middleweight contender, Mark Munoz discusses his body transformation, TRT, fighter bonuses and opens up about his previous losses in this exclusive interview.

Making the most of a bad situation or finding the silver lining in a cloud is something we've all had to do at one point or another in our lives. Some people shine through difficulty or even tragedy better than others. It's all in how you you face the situation. Some spiral out of control, never to find their way back to the point from whence they came. Some pick themselves up, brush the dirt off their shoulders and get right back on the proverbial horse. They say adversity can bring out the best in an athlete, and losses present a challenge to rise up and be better.

UFC middleweight contender, Mark Munoz has taken last year's devastating loss to Chris Weidman, and used it as a motivational tool to transform himself into a physical specimen. When he released his before and after photos from his yearlong journey of self improvement and training last week, I was amazed at the results. He looks better than the sports world has ever seen him look. I daresay he's in the best shape of his life.

It's not all about the physical, though. The psychological aspect is just as important, if not more so. For Mark, sadness and depression became his companions, hanging around and gnawing away at his self esteem and confidence. They made him question his ability to fight competitively in a sport that he not only loved, but depended on to make a living from to support his family.

Where most find solace in alcohol, or even drugs, Mark's self destructive weapon of choice was food. According to him, he ate too much because he was sad, and was sad because he ate too much. He ballooned up to 260+ pounds before he finally picked himself up by his bootstraps and decided to stop wallowing in self pity and depression.

Now, we're being treated to a whole new fighter, one that has used this long layoff as an opportunity, a metamorphosis of sorts, and tomorrow night at UFC 162, we'll get to see the new and improved Mark Munoz taking on a very game opponent in Tim Boetsch. I recently interviewed Munoz, who was brutally honest about this past year, and overcoming his personal demons. Here's what he had to say:

Structure

Mentally, I'm excited to go into this fight. I've never felt this good before. This camp has been amazing. I needed this year to get straight. I needed these trials and struggles to open my eyes to a different perspective for training and doing everything. I was playing it from the hip. Every fight I've just been flying by the seat of my pants. I just did whatever I felt was right.

Now that I have a team around me, things have been changed around a good bit. I'm so thankful that I went through this whole year, full of adversity, because now my eyes have been opened to something better. I didn't do it with artificial help, either. It was all organic and natural. No TRT or any of that stuff. Just hard work and dedication.

Journey Back From Depression

That loss was devastating for me. I'm a fighter that hates to lose, and I also hate not being able to compete. I didn't even know my foot was broken. I was so ready to fight, that it never even occurred to me to pull out of it. I went into that fight with a broken foot, and my elbow was still bad. To make matters worse, I got knocked out, and then I got the news that I was going to be out for a year, because they found out my foot was broken.

All of those things sent me into a tailspin. I went through serious depression. I'm not a guy that parties or drinks, so I turned to food. I was like Fat Bastard in the Austin Powers movie. I ate because I was sad, and I was sad because I ate. Just me going through this whole ordeal, it's given me mental fortitude. Now, I'm firing on all cylinders and feeling better than I've ever felt. I'm going into this fight very confident that I'm going to get a stoppage, either knockout or submission.

Career Losses: 1, 2, 3

About seven days prior to the fight, I was training with King Mo, and he caught me with a big knee and knocked me out. -Mark Munoz

I'm going to tell you about my three losses. I don't make any excuses, and I own those losses, but going into that fight with Matt Hamill, I got knocked out by a training partner and ended up with a concussion. About seven days prior to the fight, I was training with King Mo, and he caught me with a big knee and knocked me out. I didn't pull out of the fight, and ended up not fighting the way I normally do. It was my fault, and I can't blame anyone else.

With Yushin Okami, I had a terrible weight cut. I think I came in a day or two before weigh-ins at like 212 pounds and dehydrated myself to make weight. I was firing from the hip and didn't really know what I was doing. I took a blood test and they told me my cortisol levels were really high. When I fought that fight, I had been training from seven in the morning until three in the afternoon in a straight shot. I was not right when I went into it.

I trained the same way for the Weidman fight, and also had a broken foot going into it. I rushed back from my elbow injury, so I had a bad elbow, a broken foot, and the same, terrible weight cut. Again, I'm not making excuses. I know what my mistakes were.

TRT

Guys that use that stuff for career advantage, and not because they need it, are only thinking about the here and now. They're not thinking about the future when their bodies stop producing it naturally. If I end up fighting someone that uses TRT, I'll know it's because they don't think they're good enough to fight without it.

Fight Bonuses

I'm trying to get a finish. I'm not just trying to score points. I want a bonus bad. The reward justifies the risk, for me. -Mark Munoz

Those fight bonuses become very critical to a lot of us. We're not like other sports where we can solely focus on MMA. The sport is just too young for that for all of us to just be athletes. I'm a fighter, a gym owner and a personal trainer. Getting those bonuses kind of lighten the load financially, and allows me to spend more time with my family. If I don't get a bonus, then I have to work even harder. That's why I fight the way I do. I'm trying to get a finish. I'm not just trying to score points. I want a bonus bad. The reward justifies the risk, for me.

Confidence

That's why I've made the changes in my training and lifestyle. I've surrounded myself with a structured team that is guiding me the in the right direction. Everything is well planned and strategic. I'm so confident in my self and my skills. Now, I feel like I'm really prepared on how to approach being a professional athlete.

You can follow Mark via his Twitter account, @Mark_Munoz

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