LAS VEGAS -- It took a literal look in the mirror to get Mark Munoz back into the right direction.
As documented in a set of photos which went viral this week, the UFC middleweight contender got all the way up to 262 pounds, just shy of the heavyweight limit, before he committed to getting back in shape.
"I looked at myself in the mirror and I said 'what the heck just happened to me,'" said Munoz, who meets Tim Boetsch on Saturday during the UFC 162 main card. "I called my trainer and said hey man, I need to do something about this right now."
That was turning point in a difficult year for Munoz, one that featured injuries and a terrible beating at the hands of Chris Weidman. Speaking at Thursday's UFC 162 press conference in the MGM Grand lobby, Munoz wasn't afraid to talk about his experience.
"I went through depression," Munoz (12-3) said. "I'm not a guy who uses drugs or alcohol or parties. I eat. I was a fat bastard. That's what it was, man."
Munoz had run off four straight victories before the Weidman loss. He'll look to return to the win column against Boetsch (16-5) on Saturday, but for now, he's just happy to get back into the thick of things.
"I had a lot of adversity last year going into that fight against Weidman," Munoz said. "I needed that year away, it was a blessing in disguise. Right now, I don't put that pressure on myself at all, I go out there and do what I can do. I train every day, we're professional athletes and that's what we do. You're going to see the best version of me for sure."
"I'm 192 right now. The weight cut's been awesome. It's coming off me. This cut has been amazing, the best cut I've ever had, by far in any competition in wrestling and mixed martial arts. I'm feeling the best I've ever felt."
For his part, UFC president Dana White said he wasn't aware the degree to which Munoz had drifted. But he also said he wasn't surprised to see him come back.
"I didn't know," White said. "The type of guys who fight in this sport, they're good people, they're mentally tough people, they're emotionally tough people. It doesn't surprise me. These guys overcome this type of s--- all the time."
"I don't even want to talk about cutting Chris Leben"
It's obvious White has a soft spot for fighters from the first Ultimate Fighter cast. Look no further than Saturday's impending UFC Hall of Fame inductions of Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar for proof.
That soft spot extends to Chris Leben as well. The 32-year old Portland native has had his share of struggles both inside the cage and out.
Leben (22-9) returns to action Saturday night when he meets Andrew Craig in the headline bout of the FX prelim card.
"Every time Chris Leben shows up and he's healthy and he's doing the right thing, I'm happy," White said. "I like Chris Leben very much."
"I wouldn't say he looked like a guy who didn't want to fight," White said. "I would say he looked like a guy who didn't fight for a long time. Listen, Leben is a f--- war horse, OK? This guy comes in and he's either going to kill or be killed. He's looking to knock your out or get knocked out. And as you get older, if you take time off, it's not like he's going to come out with incredible hand speed and unbelievable head movement. .... He's gone through some hard times, he's a guy who's overcome a ton of adversity, since before The Ultimate Fighter, through the Ultimate Fighter and all throughout his career and life."
Leben has lost three of his past four fights, and a bout with the 8-1 Craig is no joke. But White said at this point, he doesn't even want to entertain the idea of cutting Leben if he puts in a poor showing on Saturday.
"I don't know, let's see what happens on Saturday," White said. "He's a kid that no matter what he's doing, I want to keep him motivated and make it so that every day when he gets out of bed, he's a part of society and has something to acheive or some goals, you know what I mean? I always want that there for him. I don't even want to talk about cutting Chris Leben."
Here and there
The UFC's return to Manchester, England in late October or early November has long been rumored. White all but confirmed the deal without actually saying it. When he was told word was spreading that the company would return to the U.K. city, White responded "That's a good rumor." When asked if Manchester native Michael Bisping would have a place on this not-quite-official card, White said, "It would be good to bring Bisping back to Manchester, that will always be fun." ... White was appraised of Jason "Mayhem" Miller's attempts to troll him on Twitter last week. the UFC boss claimed he had no idea about it and dismissed it by referencing his legal trouble in Orange County last summer. "I haven't seen it," White said. "All I can say is he was found naked in a church and was arrested for vandalizing. Need I say more?" ... White debunked rumors that ticket sales for Silva vs. Weidman were slow. 12,400 tickets have been sold for the bout at the MGM Grand Arena, with another two days of ticket sales to go. The gate stands at $4.26 million, which, even if another ticket wasn't sold between now and fight night, would rank eighth in the history of Nevada MMA. An internet report which circulated midweek claimed the company had only sold 25 percent of the tickets available for the fight. ... Heavyweight Fabricio Werdum was in White's office for a visit a couple days back. White said Werdum is lobbying for a bout with Daniel Cormier.