WE ARE Mark Muñoz’ Kamaganak!
Written and photographed
By Jude Bautista
Even though he lost his most recent fight against Chris Weidman, thousands flocked to the Mall of Asia Music Hall last March 10 to get a glimpse of Mark Muñoz. ‘The Filipino Wrecking Machine’ has become the Philippines’ most visible face in MMA’s biggest show in the UFC. Brandon ‘The Truth’ Vera at Light Heavyweight has also proudly represented us in the octagon and has also been here.
Muñoz in the middleweight division is more vocal about his Pinoy roots. He proudly exclaims “I am 100% Filipino!” over and over again. And has taken the time to learn more Tagalog words and promises to speak more fluently when he returns after his Tim Boetsch fight on UFC 162 slated for July 6 (aired here July 7, 2013 on BALLS channel).
Mark’s influence isn’t measured by his win loss record but more of how he is outside octagon. His dedication to his family and initiatives to help not just in his local community in the U.S. but also here in the Philippines via typhoon PABLO victims have garnered him even more fans.
He was born in Japan from Filipino parents; his father was a part of the U.S. Navy who later moved his family to Vallejo California. During a press con he was able to talk about his roots here, “My father originally, well his father is from Bicol. They moved to Pasay City that’s where he grew up. My mom is from Sta. Ana. Manila. I have a family party scheduled for tomorrow. Can’t wait to meet all my family members. Last year I met them all about 60 of them in one restaurant. We ate nearly all of the food. I’m very excited to meet all my family and all the fans here as well. I love the Philippines and I plan to come back more.”
Being typically Filipino he also brought all his relatives to the meet and greet event last March 10. Of course they had a picture taking session, which was the biggest group/ family photo with all 60 of them. Almost like Willie Revillame in WOWOWILLIE he involved his kamaganak (relatives) by having them do the ‘Harlem Shake’ on the ring.
When asked what his favorite food was Mark recited a litany of Pinoy dishes that made the press laugh, “Adobo, kare-kare, pansit, dinuguan, monggo, tinola, sinigang, nilaga, lumpia, chihcaron, lechon kawali, ginisa, tapa, I can keep on going. I love the food I love the people. The people here are amazing. The hospitality the generosity the love, the care, the genuine concern is how I grew up. I grew 100% Filipino my mom cooked for me since the day I got out of her womb. She’s been cooking for me. When she comes to my house she cooks food. There are 6 people in my family she cooks for 50! Then if you don’t eat it she gets mad. ‘You eat you eat!’ I grew up very Filipino.”
Not far from his mind were the thousands of Filipinos who lost their homes and livelihood during typhoon PABLO, “I actually love the fighting spirit here in the Phil. I really do. When the flood came I saw the fighting spirit come out of the people. I was supposed to come during that time. We did flood relief and fundraiser. We saw a lot of people fighting, just being resilient people and being very tough, persevering. Those are all the things that Filipino people are. I want to represent that inside the octagon in the UFC.”
It is Mark’s reputation of giving back to the community that distinguishes him from other UFC fighters. As an awarded wrestler throughout his high school and college career, he is acknowledged as one of the best coaches for wrestling in MMA. UFC middleweight champ Anderson Silva, the Nogueira brothers, Lyoto Machida have all trained with Muñoz to improve their wrestling.
The REIGN TRAINING CENTER, which he owns and operates, boasts a stable of strong UFC fighters like Kryztof Sozynski and Invicta Atomweight champion Jessica Penne. The gym is named because “Reign: \’ran\ A period of time during which one achieves power or dominance through their desire, direction, discipline, diligence, and dedication. (5 D’s)”
According to Wikipedia, “Muñoz continues to give back to the wrestling community by offering a 5 to 10 day wrestling camp for high school athletes in Oceanside, California. He brings in wrestlers from Cal Poly, Fullerton, and Oregon to help the kids. Also Muñoz brings in Coach Calivitta and many other great clinicians like Urijah Faber, Joe Heskett, and even the wrestling great and his coach John Smith.”
One of the best homegrown MMA fighters have already touched base with Mark to help him train and maybe try his luck in the UFC, “Whoever wants to come and train, I’ll try to help them as much as I can while I’m here. There are fighters who are gonna come and see me too in my gym back in the States. Eduard Folayang is coming to train with me and I’m looking forward to that. He’s a really nice guy and wants to improve in his wrestling. I’ve accepted the challenge to help him 100%. He’s gona come for 2 months. I’m excited to meet anybody out here who wants to learn.”
Although his kids are active he doesn’t force them into MMA, “My whole family is involved in sports. My daughter does soccer I want her to do volleyball. I’ve been coaxing her to do that but she’s very highly involved in soccer. My son does soccer, baseball and I coach him in wrestling. If they ever wanted to do MMA I ‘d back them 100%. Anything they wanted to do I’d back them 100% and they have a great coach.
His elder sister Rheena who handles his PR was an influence on him too, “I played a lot of sports when I was younger, basketball, football. If I didn’t get hurt I’d probably be in American football. I played volleyball in tournaments with my church. I played in tournaments after that. My sister taught me volleyball so I like volleyball a lot too. I got into mixed martial arts through wrestling. That’s what I fell in love with so I’m here to stay.”
UFC Asia EVP and Managing Dir Mark Fischer has seen the popularity of MMA in the Philippines. He made an important announcement in the press con together with Mark, “I’d like to predict that we’d do a fight in Manila maybe somewhere else in the Philippines but most likely Manila in 2014. And this guy is gonna be in the main card! So stay tuned for more details.”
Fischer qualified his statement and asked all Filipinos for help, “Its just a prediction I need all of your support and those of our corporate sponsors and the fans to make it all a reality. But if we all work together we’re gonna make this happen. We all need to work together to make it a reality.” We all owe it to Mark Muñoz to buy tickets and tell our friends about it. His countrymen for him are all part of a bigger family, for him WE ARE ALL his kamaganak.