Fil-Am UFC veteran Mark Muñoz shares his thoughts on the state of Filipino MMA
Santino Honasan on Jun 19, 2020 02:43 PM
“If you look at all the champions now, or the ones that are ranked in the world. A lot of them have background in wrestling. I feel that that’s something that the Philippines needs. I’m the guy to do that for them. I need to make sure I spend time in the Philippines to be able to help that," - Mark Muñoz
Apart from basketball and, as of recent years, volleyball, combat sports like boxing and mixed martial arts have been quite popular among Filipino sports fans.
A lot of credit for that goes to the likes of eight-division boxing world champion Manny Pacquiao, four-division boxing champion Nonito Donaire Jr., Donnie Nietes, and those who came before them like Gabriel “Flash” Elorde, Pancho Villa, and Gerry Peñalosa, all of whom made it big on the world stage.
In recent years, a number of Filipinos are have also made a name for themselves in the global mixed martial arts arena, and one of the early big stars was none other than former UFC veteran Mark “The Filipino Wrecking Machine” Muñoz.
From 2009 to 2015, Muñoz was one of the UFC’s top middleweight contenders and proudly carried the Filipino flag with him each time he stepped inside the Octagon.
In May of 2015, on the UFC’s inaugural fight card in Manila, Muñoz retired in front of his kababayans after a unanimous decision win over Luke Barnatt.
Muñoz’s run in the UFC came at a time when the North American promotion was easily accessible to fans in the Philippines, and he became a household name in terms of Filipino MMA.
Now, five years after Muñoz’s retirement, MMA in the Philippines has never been more popular, thanks in large part to promotions like the Asia-based ONE Championship, which holds around four events in Manila every year, and of course, the URCC, the Philippines’ first-ever MMA promotion.
Today, homegrown Filipino talents like Eduard Folayang, Joshua Pacio, Kevin Belingon, Denice Zamboanga, Chris Hoffman, an many others have also gotten their time to shine on the world stage, and Muñoz believes that it’s because Filipinos are natural fighters.
“I just feel Filipinos in general have that combat mentality. That’s already inside of them,” Muñoz said on The Hitlist vodcast. “I feel that Filipinos, from the days that we have to get our independence from the Spanish, Jose Rizal, he’s a hero in the nation, it’s just embedded in our culture, in our blood, so I just feel like Filipinos in general would be amazing fighters.”
Munoz made special mention of guys like former ONE world champions Folayang and Belingon, as well as URCC champions Hoffman, and Ernesto Montilla Jr.
“I mean you just look at the…Filipinos now, it’s growing and getting better. I’ve been following Eduard Folayang. He’s an amazing representative of the Philippines, Kevin Belingon, he’s the man. I think there’s another one that was on the card when I fought, Mark Eddiva is good. I know I’m leaving out a lot of fighters, there’s Ernesto Montilla Jr., when I was there in training, a guy caught my eyes, Chris Hoffman trained with me and helped me out. I know he’s doing big things in the Philippines. I think he’s URCC champion.”
“There’s a lot of good fighters in the Philippines. I know I’m leaving out a lot and I don’t want to do that but there’s a lot of good talents in the Philippines and I wanna come, I wanna be there and help them in wrestling, in MMA wresting, in ground and pound, in everything that was my specialty in MMA,” he added.
While Filipinos have indeed excelled in mixed martial arts, one aspect continues to be perceived as the Filipino fighter’s weakness is the ground game, whether it be wrestling or grappling.
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Today’s young stars, guys like Team Lakay’s Pacio and Danny Kingad have displayed some exceptional grappling in their past performances, but Muñoz, a former collegiate wrestler and current wrestling coach, made a living off taking guys down and keeping them grounded.
“I think the common thing that everyone says with MMA is wrestling. Wrestling is the ultimate neutralizer. If you don’t have a good understanding of wrestling, you’re gonna have a really hard time becoming one of the, being ranked in the world or even be a champion,” Muñoz explained. “If you look at all the champions now, or the ones that are ranked in the world. A lot of them have background in wrestling. I feel that that’s something that the Philippines needs.”
Muñoz has always said that one of the things he would most like to do is to help develop wrestling in the Philippines and hopes to one day be able to finally fulfill that mission.
“I’m the guy to do that for them. I need to make sure I spend time in the Philippines to be able to help that,” he continued.