Mark Muñoz goes out on his own terms

Nissi Icasiano
Mark Muñoz goes out on his own terms
Mark Muñoz is one of the few fighters who has managed to execute a storybook epilogue to his mixed martial arts career

MANILA, Philippines – Desire is defined as a strong feeling to have something or wishing for something to happen. This character trait is innate to all athletes.

Why is this so important to every sportsperson competing at a high level? Without desire, there is no hope. A player cannot be even considered having a goal without it. Desire ignites the flame in the spirit. It is the wind beneath the wings.

Desire is the driving force behind each athlete’s success. However, a knockout or a submission can easily make this burst into thin air when a competitor is living in the world of mixed martial arts (MMA). Worst-case scenario is ending up not only losing but bleeding as well.

In this almost-barbaric sport, many fighters strive for perfect endings in their careers, with aspirations of always being on top of their game and becoming champions. 

Sadly though, many careers culminate in cruel conclusions and heartbreaking disappointments due to its violent nature, which discourage most fighters from returning to the cage.

After dropping the UFC heavyweight title to Cain Velasquez in October 2010 while dealing with the digestive disease diverticulitis, Brock Lesnar retired from MMA when he bowed down to Alistair Overeem via first-round technical knockout in December 2011.

Randy Couture sought a ceremonious exit in April 2011, but Lyoto Machida sent him home with a jumping front kick in the second round. Meanwhile, BJ Penn attempted to regain his glory after two-straight unsatisfactory losses and not being active for two years, but Frankie Edgar mauled him in three rounds to convince him that he was finished as a fighter.

Countless fighters have tried to end their MMA runs on a high note, but most failed dismally. 

Mark Muñoz is one of the few who managed to execute a storybook epilogue to his eight-year career triumphantly. 

(WATCH: Mark Muñoz delivers heartfelt farewell speech)

Muñoz, one of the most respected figures in MMA today, officially retired from the sport after his dominant unanimous-decision victory against Luke Barnatt on Saturday, May 16.

Mark Muñoz poured his heart out in his final UFC fight, and afterwards as well. Photo by Josh Albelda

It was a picture-perfect scene for the 37-year-old Filipino-American as Muñoz strutted his wares for the very last time in the Philippines, the country of lineage for the Japan-born Filipino-American.

The fans were behind him from the second he walked out to the tunes of “Bebot” by Black Eyed Peas, and they continued to cheer until he left his gloves in the center of the Octagon.

Muñoz had his defining moment after enduring a turbulent road to his farewell fight versus Barnatt. He suffered disheartening defeats in the hands of Lyoto Machida, Gegard Mousasi and Roan Carneiro.

Machida dropped him with a first-round head kick in October 2013, while Mousasi compelled Muñoz to tap with a rear-naked choke in May 2014.

This past February, it took Carneiro less than two minutes to render Muñoz unconscious with the same submission hold.

Two weeks before Muñoz’s homecoming match, he expressed his willingness to overcome the rocky challenges he has faced in the Octagon.

“I’ve never been a person to just wallow in my sorrow. I talk about adversity all the time and how to rise above adversity. That’s the kind of person that I am. It’s the Filipino in me. We don’t stop,” he stated.

There was a time when Muñoz skyrocketed to the pinnacle of success, only to plunge downhill subsequently.

Muñoz was unsuccessful in his UFC debut in March 2009 when he was knocked out cold by Matt Hamill’s brutal first-round head kick, but he bounced back with three victories in a row, including a spectacular come-from-behind performance against Kendall Grove in April 2010.

Although he’d sustain a loss to Yushin Okami shortly after, Muñoz was able to elevate his status in the middleweight ranking by picking up notable wins over the likes of Aaron Simpson, CB Dollaway, Demian Maia and Chris Leben.

Muñoz was a step away from getting a crack at the UFC middleweight championship when he encountered another roadblock in his path of becoming a world champion.

A horrific second-round standing elbow and follow-up ground punches from Chris Weidman in July 2012 relegated Muñoz on the sidelines for a year, battling depression and weight gain.

Muñoz gathered himself once more to score a spectacular comeback bout versus Tim Boetsch in July 2013, landing 92 percent of his punches.

We can say that Muñoz experienced how it was to lie flat on his back several times. But time and time again, he has shown why he is known as the Filipino Wrecking Machine.

If Muñoz were literally a machine, his desire was the fuel in his gas tank. That desire made him unstoppable in realizing how to accomplish what he wanted.

Muñoz’s résumé will not qualify him as one of the all-time MMA greats. But as a fighter and a person, he can be highly esteemed because of his desire – his desire to fight back, his desire to overcome insurmountable odds, his desire to pick himself up, his desire to vindicate himself, and his final desire to have his hand raised.

Life is not a walk in the park, but if we were to tear off a page from Muñoz’s journal, where he was knocked out with a head kick, got his left eyebrow busted open with an elbow, and passed out from a rear-naked choke, it can truly be said that “It ain’t over till it’s over.”

Our existence in this world will bring struggles, but we have to nurture the desire that after all has been said and done, there is indeed a light at the end of the tunnel.

As for Mark Muñoz, he demonstrated that he was not restrained, is not subdued, and will not be stopped by any challenge that life throws his way. True enough, he is the Filipino Wrecking Machine inside and outside the UFC’s famed Octagon.

“Champions aren’t determined by how many wins they have. It’s how many times they pick themselves up after a loss,” Muñoz said. – Rappler.com

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