Wrestler at heart, Munoz is ready for WEC debut

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Mark Munoz will be making his World Extreme Cagefighting debut on June 1 on Versus. The feature bout will be the WEC featherweight championship fight between Urijah Faber and Jens Pulver. Munoz, a former assistant coach for the wrestling team of University of California-Davis, will be taking on Chuck Grigsby.

Munoz is looking forward to making his mark in the fairly thin WEC light heavyweight division. "I'm really excited," Munoz told MMAWeekly Radio recently. "It's been a long time coming. I've been training all my life in wrestling and I've been studying the sport. I had a lot of mentors that have trained me. I'm just really excited. It's kind of hard to train harder than I've been training."

One of the biggest contributors to sway Munoz to try mixed martial arts is the man who will be headlining the WEC 34 card in Sacramento, Calif., Urijah Faber. "Urijah was a big influence and will be a huge influence on my MMA career."

Mixed martial arts already has its share of educated fighters, and you can add Mark Munoz to that list. He is currently finishing up his master's degree in Sports Psychology. "I just have to do my thesis. I'm locked in on a topic, which is the rise of MMA. I just got to do it. With me stepping down as the assistant coach of UC-Davis now, I think I'll have some time in between fights."

Obtaining a degree is Sports Psychology has its advantages for a guy like Munoz. Especially since this next fight will be the biggest fight of his career in front of many viewers watching on television. "It's huge," he explained. "I'm learning about confidence. I'm learning about the positives of self-talk. Knowing that you belong in the place that you are at because you work hard. People worry about the things they can't control. But you can control the pace of your fight. You can control your technique. You can control your thoughts. Those are a few things that you can apply to mixed martial arts."

Munoz has a strong background in wrestling and he believes that it will work to his advantage having such a strong base to work off of. "It's a huge base. With wrestlers, they train hard. They train to push past the fatigue and they train technically and they spend hours upon hours learning new techniques and applying. Wrestlers are known to be relentless and tenacious because of the nature of the sport.

"Learning those new techniques with boxing, Muay Thai and jiu-jitsu, I think wrestlers will continue to learn and learn and learn. I just applied everything I learned from wrestling into mixed martial arts and I think it's working."

For many fighters, the main goal is to get to the UFC, however, Zuffa's sister company, the WEC, has improved its roster substantially and has gained in popularity. Munoz believes his debut is very big for his career and doesn't take that for granted.

"It means the world," he said appreciatively. "I resigned from being a coach at UC-Davis and now I'm pouring my heart into mixed martial arts. I'm giving everything I have into this sport and I will continue to do so. It just means the world. It's a great opportunity for a guy like me that has the ability and is willing to step into the cage. I think it's huge for me. I think it's going to be really good for my family so I can provide for them financially and to spend more time with them."

In order to prepare for his debut bout against Grigsby, Munoz has hooked up with former UFC light heavyweight champion Tito Ortiz. "My managers are really good friends with Tito. I just hopped on the opportunity. When they told me about that camp, I said, 'Man, let's do it!' Training with Tito was unbelievable," exclaimed Munoz. "I remember him just pounding people when I was in high school. It was kind of like mixing it up with one of the mixed martial arts' hero. I learned so much that I'm going to apply to my fight on June 1st."

Grigsby has fought in some smaller shows and will also be making his WEC debut. Luckily, Munoz has done his homework on his opponent and knows what to expect from him. "He's 13-3 and he's from the Midwest, pretty athletic guy. Obviously he's real long since he's six-foot-six. After a while, he got into boxing and mixed martial arts. Everyone he's fought has had a losing record, all his wins. His three losses were against wrestlers with losing records so that goes in my favor. I'm going to utilize my ground and pound."

June 1's WEC 34 card has shaped up nicely and with the addition of the Munoz-Grigsby fight, it's sure to add some extra flair to an already exciting line-up.

"I'm gonna go in there and everything that I learned, I'm definitely going to apply," commented Munoz. "You're going to see some elbows. You'll see some of my wrestling background in the cage. Be prepared for some exciting action on June 1."