Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
If there's one word to describe the language Mark Munoz uses these days about his UFC career, it's unequivocal. There's no waffling or ambiguity anywhere in sight. To hear him tell it, he's the one who's been loyal, who has put in the work and has developed through the UFC middleweight ranks. Sure, there are other talented middleweights, but no one's done what he's done. No one is more deserving than him.
When questioned by Ariel Helwani on Monday's The MMA Hour if he should be the next to face Anderson Silva if he emerges victorious on Wednesday after his fight with Chris Weidman at UFC on FUEL TV 4, Munoz was, well, unequivocal. "Yes," answered 'The Filipino Wrecking Machine' without a second of hesitation. "Yes, I do."
Munoz isn't just direct about what he thinks is rightfully his because he feels strongly about it, although he does. He also has to be this way. Given the current crop of middleweight contender around him who also believe they should be next in line for a crack at Silva, Munoz knows there's a bit of verbal salesmanship that must complement whatever he does in the cage. That's why Munoz isn't shy about pleading his case and selling his story.
"I've always had to work for everything I have. I didn't have an easy road going through wrestling," said the 2001 Division I NCAA national champion. "I didn't have an easy road going through life. I like things the tough way. I'm definitely going to go in this fight very hungry, in shape and you're going to see a great performance for sure."
"I I truly believe that I should get a title shot because I've done everything I can at this weight class, at this division," Munoz argued. And what does that mean, precisely? According to Munoz, it's starting from scratch in the UFC, staying loyal to the organization and working his way up to the top - no shortcuts, no favors, no easy opponents.
"When it comes to developing through the ranks," Munoz explained, "I've proven that I've developed. I've been true to the UFC and I've been putting on great shows. I think it's my time. When I get past Chris Weidman and do it in the fashion I'm going to do it, I deserve a title shot."
Munoz knows, however, that there are no guarantees in this business. Even if he feels he's close to a title shot, he told Helwani UFC brass have said nothing to him about getting a title shot if he defeats Weidman. Worse, he also knows former Bellator middleweight champion Hector Lombard is a top candidate for a title shot should he defeat Tim Boetsch at UFC 149 in less than two weeks.
In Munoz's mind, nothing could be more unfair. That isn't solely because Lombard is making a lateral move from another organization, but because he believes Lombard has defeated no one to deserve such a coveted spot.
"It's very, very frustrating," Munoz confessed. "I know he's a good fighter. I know that he has a good record, but he was in another organization. To be in the best organization - which is the UFC - and for me to be in the UFC, and to have the best fighters in the UFC that are ranked in the world, and for me to fight them for as long as I've been in there and then a new guy coming in who has been fighting cans..."
Munoz briefly trailed off only to resume his withering critique of the American Top Team product. "As far as I'm concerned he was recycling, he wasn't fighting."
"Let him fight a few guys in the UFC, see where he fares. Then see if he really deserves a title shot. That's where I stand," Munoz said.
Don't think Munoz is bitter, though. He's not. He's certainly been through his fair share of adversity, but he's just eager to prove what he believes he already knows to be true. Sure, he sounds a bit frustrated, but that's Munoz being the way he is right now: unequivocal.
"I don't want an easy road. I don't. With Chris Weidman, he's tough. I truly know he's going to be tough and it's going to be a great, but I don't ask for easy opponents either," Munoz insisted. "I feel honored to be able to fight him and show truly that I am the number one contender."
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