UFC middleweight Mark Munoz is staring in utter disbelief at the scale under his feet. He makes his career at 185 pounds, and yet the Filipino fighter would barely make the heavyweight class in the state he’s in. Those three digits, looking up and mocking him, represented months of depression. A depression Munoz tried to eat his way out of.
The NCAA Wrestling National Champion was at the lowest point of his career. An elbow injury forced him out of proposed number one contender bout with Chael Sonnen at UFC on Fox: Evans vs. Davis in January 2012. Surgery repaired his elbow and another high-profile middleweight contest, this time against undefeated Chris Weidman, meant he had to be ready to go faster than he’d hoped.
But the injuries kept coming. Munoz didn’t know it at the time, but he broke his fourth and fifth metatarsals, two crucial bones in his foot. However, he didn’t want to back out of two fights in a row, especially a UFC on Fuel TV main event bout. Unable to run, he tried swimming and yoga to help shed the 55 extra pounds he was holding on his 240 pound frame.
The rough camp led to a rougher fight. Weidman put together the best fight of his career against Munoz and finished with a standing elbow strike, followed up by a bloody ground-and-pound barrage.
Depression set in.
The broken foot required a six-month layoff. He’d be in an immobilizing boot and unable to train at all.
“I’m not a guy who does drugs or alcohol or any of that stuff,” Munoz said to SiriusXM Fight Club. (Munoz on SiriusXM)
“I turned to food. I was kind of like Fat Bastard from Austin Powers-I ate because I was sad, and I was sad because I ate. It was really bad. I got up to about 260.”
That’s what brought the 35-year-old to the brink of self destruction. He’d hit rock bottom. Lingering life issues came crashing down on him once he wasn’t able to escape to the gym. “I’m the kind of guy who wears his heart on his sleeve, and if I have a set back, I get down on myself,” Munoz says.
This was a place he’d never been before. His only way to cope with the pain was a plate full of food, but it just led to more problems. “When people talk about depression, at first I was like, ‘You just need to suck it up.’ But now I look through the eyes of compassion.”
At some point during his six-month layoff, the Reign Training Center founder maxed out at 258 pounds and decided enough was enough. The injuries healed, the workouts started again, and the weight slowly started coming off. Five pounds, then 10, and then 20, until he started to feel like his old self again-physically and emotionally.
Looking back, Munoz wouldn’t change a thing. He says, “I needed for that to happen because if that hadn’t happened, I’d have continued doing the same thing. Just having my eyes set on the world title when really I needed everything to be in harmony with in my life.” The deeply spiritual married father of four is thankful for his trials and tribulations. It’s made him a better man, and hence, a better fighter.
The timing couldn’t have been better. Boasting a 12-3 record, Munoz has never lost back-to-back fights, and he isn’t about to start now. Standing in the way of that accomplishment is Tim Boetsch, his opponent at UFC 162 on July 6. “The Barbarian” is coming off a loss as well, but that came after a four-fight winning streak in the UFC. Boetsch is not someone you want to face with a bum wheel, a broken elbow, or fresh off the buffet line. With a healthy body and mind, Munoz is ready for the challenge and isn’t going to make the same mistakes again.