Munoz prepared for toughest test of his MMA career
Munoz credits his team at Reign Training Center for making it possible.
“For me I feel everyday I’m improving. Every session, after I complete it I feel better. That is a testament to who I’m training with. My training partners are great. I have Jason “Mayhem” Miller, Krzyzstof, Jay Silva, Brent Cooper and Emanuel Newton. I also have Marcel Louzado, who has beaten Demian Maia in jiu-jitsu competitions. Aside from that I have the guys at Kings MMA like Fabricio Werdum, Babalu and Master Rafael Cordero. Plus I get to train with all of their strikers like Shogun and Wanderlei. I’m also at Black House, so I feel like all of these training partners are sharpening me every day and I feel like I’m at my best."
Munoz, a former NCAA Division 1 National Champion in wrestling, has used his grappling skills to spring board into a career in MMA.
“The one on one combat from wrestling prepares you for MMA. A lot of fighters have come from different backgrounds, and while some come from combat sports, there are some that come from a team environment background. Coming into MMA from a team sport is difficult because when you step in there you are alone. You don’t have anyone else to blame. That’s good for me because I love that. I’d rather it all be on my shoulders because I would rather take the brunt of everything.
"For me to be able to take what I’ve learned from wrestling and apply it to mixed martial arts was a no brainer. I’m the type of guy that goes out there and I want to dominate my opponent. That’s how I’ve always been in wrestling, wanting to impose my will and enforce my style and if I went out there and wrestled my style and now fight my fight everything will take care of itself. Now if I don’t get my hand raised at the end, that’s okay because you learn from those experiences and move on to become better. That’s who I was as a wrestler and that’s who I am as a fighter.
"I want to get better every time. Those were lessons I learned in the wrestling room and because of that I don’t let pride get in the way. Pride comes before the fall and it’s not something I want to do. But if I do fall then I’m going to get back up and work hard to keep moving forward because that’s what it’s all about and every guy here feels that. “
The most difficult transition for wrestlers into MMA is developing an effective striking game. While Munoz realizes he has a long way to go, a 54-second stoppage of C.B. Dollaway in his last outing and the input of his training partners have built his confidence for this, the biggest fight of his career.
“All of my training partners have told me to believe in my hands and the power that is in them. It took me awhile to adjust to that, but they’ve told me to believe in my power. I’ve learned how to set my feet and look for the openings in places where I would normally look to clinch or go for the takedown. I’m a wrestler and I’m never going to forget who I am but at the same time I know what I can do. I’m starting to connect the two and transition. It’s made me a better mixed martial artist without a doubt. Being a wrestler is great but in this sport you need to be a good mixed martial artist. Right now I’m improving every time I step in and that is what I want people to notice…that improvement when I enter the octagon. For me, I’m not a guy who just scores points. I’m looking to end that fight. That is who I am and who I’m always going to be.”
While Maia’s striking has also looked improved over his past several fights, there is no secret where he will be looking to put Munoz on Saturday.
“I’m prepared to go wherever the fight is and I’m going to fight my fight. Jason [Miller] has been reminding me all of the time about it because I need someone in my ear. This fight with Maia is going to be about discipline and fighting the fight on my terms. [Maia] has his plans, but I feel like I have more power than him and if he wants to go toe to toe then let’s do it. I don’t think that is how it is going to go but whatever he wants to do I’m ready for. I will fight this fight on my terms and I know what I’m going to do. So now the job is to go out there and enforce it and do what I do best to Demian Maia.”
“I definitely want to bring Maia into the deep water. Put him there with “Mark the Shark”. I want to get him there and drown him. It will come down to conditioning, but Demian is a tough guy. I’ve seen that in his past fights and I’m going to be throwing everything plus the kitchen sink at him. I know he’s a great fighter and he’s going to come in prepared and conditioned but at the same time I’m coming into this fight in great shape and I’m going to look to outwork and overpower him. It’s going to be a great fight.”
Maia represents the next tier of the middleweight division - a position Munoz is hungry to reach.
“I don’t know where a win over Maia puts me for sure, but I’m sure it puts me up there in the rankings. I just want to walk away with the win and do it in a way that people notice my improvement. I want people to notice my progress and relate it to the great training situation I have here at Reign. When I get better, they get better and we all improve together. I want to create a situation where everyone shares in each other’s success so when I get a win all of our guys get that win too. That’s what a team is and should be. If a win over Demian gets me closer to the top then that’s awesome but if it doesn’t I’ll just keep working hard and keep climbing. This division is packed with a lot of contenders so I want to set myself apart from them."
Munoz concluded by setting expectations for UFC 131, “Fans need to be expecting nothing less than fireworks. There’s firepower in these hands and I’m going to be looking to finish this fight. I’m going out there full steam ahead, like I always do and make it exciting someway somehow. It’s going to be a great fight and I’m expecting Demian to bring the same thing. I know he’s going to try to enforce his jiu-jitsu skills but at the same time I’m going to look to punch him in the face a few times and end the fight in exciting fashion.”