It has been two weeks since the historic UFC Fight Night happened in Manila but Filipinos still have the hangover from the event that we thought would never happen.
Filipinos are certified MMA fanatics; in fact the UFC Fight Night in Manila even surpassed the supposedly bigger UFC 187 event held at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vega last weekend.
An estimate of 13,446 people attended the Fight Night that was headlined by ex-world champs Frankie Edgar and Urijah Faber. While only 12,615 attendees went out to see the two title fights in Las Vegas for the open light heavyweight title match against Anthony Johnson and Daniel Cormier and the middleweight bout between Chris Weidman and Vitor Belfort.
With the amazing attendance in Manila, having another UFC event in the Philippines is a great possibility and having more Pinoy fighters in the fight cards is something we all look forward to as well.
The legacy of Mark “The Filipino Wrecking Machine”
One of the reasons why UFC Fight Night in Manila was a huge success was because of Mark Munoz, one of the most successful Filipino fighters in the UFC. Mark was one of the early bets to become a middleweight champion during his early years in MMA and he was known for his ground and pound move as his finisher. He held a professional record of 14 wins, 6 losses and 0 draw.
Dubbed as the “The Filipino Wrecking Machine”, Mark was a decorated wrestler and a two time State Champion during his college days. He entered the world of Mixed Martial Arts only in 2007 but he quickly drew attention when he won two straight victories in the World Extreme Championship (WEC) against Chuck Grisby and Ricardo Barros. He then lost his debut fight in the UFC in 2009 against Matt Hamil but proved he was worth to be among the best middleweight fighters when he earned a three-fight winning streak against Nick Catone, Ryan Jensen and Kendall Grove. He has also beaten elite fighters with the likes of Aaron Simpson, CB Dollaway, Demian Maia and Chris Leben. With such amazing victories, he was rooted to become the next middleweight champion.
But in 2012, Munoz seemed to have lost his magic as Chris Weidman, now the current middleweight champion, beat him down to the canvas. His loss to Weidman devastated Munoz and caused him to fall into depression. He did his best to stand up again, train and become in the fittest shape of his life after a year. He then won his comeback fight against Tim Boetsch in 2013. But Munoz’s victory inside the cage ended there. He then had three straight losses to Lyoto Machida, Gegard Mousasi and Roan Carneiro after. It was after that losing streak that he decided it was time to hang his gloves for good.
Mark’s farewell fight
It was always Mark’s dream to fight in front of his countrymen. Even if he was raised in the States, he has had a few visits in the Philippines to be able to go back to his roots. And so at the age of 37 years old, he took the opportunity join the UFC Fight Night in Manila to enter the octagon one last time in the place he was born, in the Philippines.
He finished his MMA journey with an outstanding win against younger fight Luke Barnatt. He officially retired from the sport that he loved in front of the people who have always supported him in his journey.
“Pilipinas, mahal ko kayong lahat. Maraming, maraming salamat po sa inyong suporta at pagtitiwala sa akin,” said Mark after his victorious last fight.
“I will cherish these memories for a lifetime,” he said in front of thousands of his adoring Filipino fans that were all standing up and applauding him, giving him the grandest gesture of respect to a fighter who gave pride to the Philippines in the MMA international arena. Emotional Mark took off his gloves and left them in the center of the Octagon, which signified the end of his MMA career.
Mark was not only good during his best times in the Octagon. He was loved and respected by his colleagues because he was genuine and kind person who never had any bad blood with anyone despite hormones raging and ego bashing in the combat sport. He was known to be a family man and a good Christian.
Now that he is already retired, he promised he would give back to the Philippines and develop a wrestling program for children. “I have a talent or a gift or ability – since I was 13 I’ve been wrestling,” he said during the post-fight press conference.
“In MMA, I think wrestling is a discipline where the Philippines needs. I can connect the dots for them. The striking is good, jiu-jitsu is good, but I think wrestling is deficient a little bit. I want to be able to come back and use my talents, gifts and abilities. I was a wrestling coach. I coached with Urijah (Faber) at UC Davis. We were just feeding off of each other. I just love coaching. I love taking a kid and seeing their skills and being able to add to their skills, not change them. Just add to their skills,” he added.
He also wants to spend more time with his family.
Other Filipino fighters to watch out for
Mark Munoz has retired but there are still a lot of rising Pinoy fighters we should watch out for in the cage.
This includes Fil-Am Martinez Streigl, a 27-year old Bantamweight division fighter for ONE Championship who recently submitted Casey Suire, a former undefeated fighter with a Rear Naked Choke. He is an entertaining fighter with his beautiful exhibition of kicks and punches, but he is also an aggressive finisher who can finish his game on the ground just like what he did with Suire. He has trained and fought in numerous countries and is now currently training in Baguio.
Eugene Toquero is also ano exciting fighter who comes from Cebu. He is an aggressive fighter who doesn’t waste time and tries to finish his opponent as fast as he could. In his flyweight bout against Brianata Rosadhi, he mounted his opponent and ruthlessly beat him down on the canvas with sharp elbows and hammer fists. His opponent was helpless and could not defend his blows which forced the referee to stop the fight and making Toquero the victor.
Indeed Mixed Martial Arts is a rapidly growing sport in the Philippines. And there is a big chance that more Filipinos in the likes of Mark Munoz will soon be signed to the UFC. We sure can’t wait to cheer and watch for another Pinoy warrior who will be as a big or even a bigger star than the “Filipino Wrecking Machine”.