x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Munoz targets victory that would mark breakthrough to top table

Shortly after the UFC 112: Invincible fight card was announced, the Filipino-American fighter, received a message via Twitter from Kendall Grove, his opponent, to show his respect and wish him luck.

Shortly after the UFC 112: Invincible fight card was announced, Mark Munoz, the Filipino-American fighter, received a message via Twitter, the social networking site, from Kendall Grove, his opponent, to show his respect and wish him luck. Munoz, 31, replied in kind and both vowed to put on a good show on Saturday night at Yas Island. But Munoz knows a win against the experienced The Ultimate Fighter series three champion would be huge for his career, and all pleasantries will be cast aside when the cage door closes.

"Every fight is a huge fight but this is the biggest fight of my life," the father-of-four said. "Right now I am making my way up the ladder. I want to be in top spot. I am gunning for it and this fight is vital." A two-time California state wrestling champion at high school, Munoz had never set out to be a full-time fighter and after finishing school accepted a job as a wrestling coach at UC Davis, part of the University of California, where he met Urijah Faber, the mixed martial arts featherweight fighter and fellow coach.

"He stayed on me and said I would be really good at MMA, the sport was exploding," said Munoz. "But I had a wife and three kids and was doing my master's degree, so when I said I couldn't do it, he backed off a bit." A sparring session with Randy Couture, a UFC Hall of Famer, changed Munoz's mind and, after convincing his reluctant wife, began fighting. "My wife didn't want me to fight at first," he said.

"She said she didn't marry a fighter. But we spoke for a while and she understood. Now she is with me every day, she is a vital part of my training and mental well-being." Munoz trains for six hours every day. Fight or no fight, he said, he never stops training. "I train hard all the time. It's not like it is work for me, I love training," he said. He is excited about fighting in Abu Dhabi and felt well prepared for the task ahead.

"Grove is going to try and keep me away, but I am going to be pushing the pace," he added. loatway@thenational.ae