MANILA, Philippines—Every fighter in the Ultimate Fighting Championship has grandiose dreams of becoming the “Manny Pacquiao” of mixed martial arts.
Mark Muñoz thinks he’s not far from becoming one.
Feared for his wrestling ability and relentless ground-and-pound, Muñoz is three steps away from a world title belt in the middleweight of the UFC.
“I will challenge whoever has the belt. I want to be the best, I want to be the Manny Pacquiao of the MMA,” said Muñoz, ranked fourth in the world in his division.
But his big-time vision could take a while.
Muñoz, who won 12 of his last 14 MMA fights, six by knockouts, has had surgery to remove bone spurs in his elbow and should recover in May at the earliest.
“Lots of people counted me out in my fights but I proved them wrong. I improve my weaknesses and refine my strengths,” added the full-bloodied Pinoy whose parents lived in Pasay before migrating to the US.
Born and raised in Vallejo, California, Muñoz is in the Philippines for the first time and worked as cornerman to Raja Shippen in the PXC 29 on Saturday night.
The 34-year-old former US NCAA Division I wrestling champion (2001) is also here to visit his relatives and hold a couple of clinics for MMA enthusiasts.
Off the octagon, Muñoz belies “The Filipino Wrecking Machine” moniker.
A choir boy while growing up, the Brazilian jiu-jitsu purple belter swears he’s consistently attending bible studies if time permits and hearing Mass on weekends.
He’s so friendly that when you meet him on the street, it would be easy to strike a conversation right away.
“It’s Filipino culture. It’s the way my parents raised me. I don’t trash talk anybody. Treat people how you wanted to be treated. I’ll give the shirt off my back if you do it for me. That’s how I am,” said Muñoz.