UFC fighter Mark Munoz is a fundraising 'Machine' for Yolanda victims
MANILA, Philippines - Mark Munoz was back home in California when the true scope of Typhoon Yolanda's devastation in the Visayas region leaked out to the rest of the world.
Munoz, a Filipino-American veteran of Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), was scheduled to come to the Philippines for an ABS-CBN promotional event before Yolanda struck and plans were nixed.
"I was heartbroken," the 35-year-old mixed martial artist with a 14-3 professional record tells Rappler.com. "When I saw it I was just like, 'Man I gotta do something.' It's just amazing how much this storm just created that disaster and affected a lot of people."
The typhoon, which made landfall in the Philippines on November 8, has killed 6,166 people, according to the government’s latest death count. Many more have been displaced or had their livelihoods destroyed.
Though the ground-and-pound expert goes by the nickname "The Filipino Wrecking Machine," it is his desire to rebuild and help his ancestral homeland recover that compelled him to organize the “MMA Wrestling Seminar and Fundraiser” this Saturday, Jan. 11 at Treasure Island Event Venue in San Francisco, Calif.
A session from 9-11 a.m. will have Munoz teaching MMA-specific grappling skills for $80 per participant, followed by a free meet-and-greet autograph session from noon to 1 p.m. The event concludes with a collegiate wrestling seminar from 1-4 p.m. for $40 per participant.
All proceeds will benefit typhoon victims, Munoz says, though he is still in the process of partnering with a charity.
"Since my expertise is in [wrestling], I was planning to use it to show people that are interested what it's all about, what I've shown to the likes of Anderson Silva, Lyoto Machida, the Nogueira brothers, Rashad Evans, Chael Sonnen," said Munoz, whose father is a native of Bicol and mother hails from Santa Ana, Manila.
Munoz’s credentials in wrestling include two Big 12 titles, a pair of All-American honors and an NCAA title at Oklahoma State University. Munoz has also been a wrestling coach at Oklahoma State and University of California at Davis.
"I've been able to coach the top guys in the UFC and other organizations so I love doing it and I love teaching. This is just my way to be able to give back, not only to wrestling and MMA, but also to my country the Philippines, which I love."
The seminar isn't Munoz's only Yolanda-related effort. The previous weekend Munoz arranged a viewing party at the UFC Gym in Concord, Calif. for the UFC 168 event, where former Munoz conqueror Chris Weidman defeated Anderson Silva for a second time. Munoz says that he raised $2,500 that night.
Munoz is also marketing a special edition t-shirt through his website (www.markmunozmma.com) for $30 bucks, emblazoned with the words "Laban Natin To Pilipinas,” which will benefit victims.
Munoz says he is planning to return to the Philippines in the coming months - possibly in February - and is hoping to meet and interact with Yolanda survivors.
“I'm still planning to get out there and just be able to touch people, hopefully get their minds off what they're going through and teach them some martial arts if they want to learn,” said Munoz.
For now, Munoz says that his career is in a "holding pattern" as he waits for an opportunity to return to the big stage.
In July, Munoz returned from a year of inactivity to win a dominant unanimous decision over Tim Boetsch at UFC 162, but was knocked out in round one by Lyoto Machida in his last fight at UFC Fight Night 30 in October. Munoz remains the no. 8 ranked middleweight contender, according to Sherdog.com.
Munoz says he hopes to reschedule a fight with British contender Michael Bisping, whom Munoz was originally slated to face in October. Bisping withdrew with a detached retina and was replaced by Machida.
MMAJunkie.com reports that the no. 6 ranked Bisping is expecting a return to the cage in March or April.
"There's so many people that are booked or injured in the top ten and I'm pretty much in a holding pattern," said Munoz. "I've had talks with [UFC matchmaker] Joe Silva and he's the one that pairs us up so right now we're just waiting. I'm training, I'm getting ready but we'll see if anybody gets hurt and I'll step in. But now there's really nobody that makes sense.
"The UFC makes fights that the fans want to watch, and the only way that the fans react is if you create a buzz. A lot of successful matchups, they've gone onto social media and been able to create a buzz. So we'll see. I'm ready to go on Twitter and call out Michael Bisping and see how it goes."
Ryan Songalia is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) and is a contributor to The Ring magazine. He can be reached at email@example.com. An archive of his work can be found at www.ryansongalia.com. Follow him on Twitter: @RyanSongalia.