Mark Munoz: I taught Lyoto Machida more than he taught me

USA TODAY Sports

It's a familiar refrain we here from fighters: "I'm not fighting my friend or teammate."

And for the most part, they're telling the truth. Some change weight classes to avoid the possibility of a fight. Others simply refuse to engage each other even though they're in the same division.

But if you're Mark Munoz and you're headlining UFC Fight Night 30 on Oct. 26 in Manchester, England, you either make do with the worst option or you don't fight at all.

Originally scheduled to face Michael Bisping, the Brit was then forced to pull out of the bout due to a severe eye injury. With less than three weeks before the Fight Night event, the UFC robbed Peter to pay Paul by asking Lyoto Machida to take the bout despite the Brazilian already being scheduled to fight Tim Kennedy at UFC Fight for the Troops 3 in November.

While there were reservations about taking the assignment, both fighters agreed in the end it was something they could pull off and would help salvage the event altogether.

That isn't to say things won't be a little bit awkward between now and Saturday.

"[We trained together] two days before the fight got announced," Munoz told Ariel Helwani of the extreme short notice on Monday's The MMA Hour. "So, it was quite recent. We talked about it and it took us by surprise. Unfortunately, we don't want to do it, but it's something we have to do and it's just part of the business.

"We were just rolling together at the Gracie Academy two days before we found out," he continued. "I was wanting to say no obviously. We're training partners, but at the same time, we just trained together and we were getting ready to train a lot more together."

As Munoz notes, he's willing to take the bout for the larger reasons, but these are hardly ideal conditions. It's not just that he's fighting his friend; he's fighting on short notice against a guy who happens to be a particularly tough fighter to figure out.

"Lyoto is the type of fighter where you have to have six to eight weeks to get ready for him, not two-and-a-half weeks. He's a no-nonsense fighter, but at the same time, you can say on the flip side he's got to get ready for me in two-and-a-half weeks. It's even more of a point to get ready for him because he's unorthodox and I'm not. I got a lot of power and I'm a wrestler, but he's definitely someone that's unique and you don't find too many guys that can mimic him."

Despite all of the challenges, however, Munoz admits there are some advantages to his current predicament. Fighting a friend and training partner isn't exactly fun, but it does provide one unique twist to the fight: both competitors have fairly intimate knowledge of each other's game.

"I do have some insight how to to fight the fight the way I want to fight it," Munoz admitted. "I think he knows that and I think he's going to use the tricks I taught him against me."

Munoz, however, believes he'll still have enough in his arsenal that he hasn't revealed that will help push the bout in his direction. "Like every other coach and teacher you have stuff you can pull out of your sleeve," he said. "Having said that, it's going to be a great fight either way.

"I'm not much of a fighter that's able to have no action. I'm always wanting to press the issue or have a passive aggressive type of style. Lyoto waits for someone to come into you. Suffice to say, it's going to be a great fight and I do plan on it being a great fight."

All of this makes one naturally ask: who learns more from who? Is it even? Is there an imbalance? If so, on who's end?

"I've learned some stuff from him, too," Munoz confessed. "It goes both ways, you know? I taught him some stuff, he taught me some stuff, but for the most part we were training together. That's how it was. I brought some insight to wrestling, he brought some insight to striking. It goes both ways, but I feel like I taught him more than he taught me."

As Munoz sees it, they're training partners, but it's the Filipino-American who did most of the instructing and teaching between the two. Sure, Munoz picked up some stuff, he believes, but this isn't a fifty-fifty proposition.

The question, then, is what can be gained from this experience? Munoz was set to face Bisping in a bout that could have had title shot implications. Against Machida, some would argue it's not so clear. This is, after all, the former UFC light heavyweight champion's first fight at middleweight. No one really knows what to expect from a fighter who is undeniably talented, but has no resume in the weight class.

For Munoz, he recognizes there is something of a lost opportunity with Bisping gone, but as one door closes, another opens.

"You definitely have to roll with the punches, figuratively speaking. You have to be able to do that and we do it inside the Octagon and now we have to do it in real life. I was looking forward to fighting Michael Bisping, not only because of all the stuff he was saying, but because he's been high on the radar as far as title shots are concerned.

"Having said that, Lyoto Machida is a former world champion," Munoz noted. "I think being able to beat Lyoto Machida is going to do the same if not more for that purpose."

In the end, Munoz isn't trying to get lost in the details of the fight. Yes, it's a friend. Sure, it's a training partner. It's true, he's fighting a former light heavyweight champion. But as the Reign MMA middleweight argued, he can't worry about that anymore. He is still on a mission to get a title shot and revenge on UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman.

"I don't think it's a problem. I've been able to change opponents at the drop of a hat in wrestling and even in mixed martial arts in various times at the beginning of my career. I'm the type of guy that can adjust and is very resilient to that.

"I can adjust," Munoz said. "That's the bottom line."

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