Throughout his four years competing under the Zuffa LLC banner, Mark Munoz has been nothing short of a model employee. He doesn’t turn down fights, never complains and does whatever is asked of him with a big smile on his face. He's the consummate company man, always willing to do what’s best for the organization.
Munoz will continue to do his part for Zuffa, but with a twist: He wants to be properly rewarded for his loyalty. He isn’t seeking a handout -- just fairness. It’s time that Zuffa does right by Munoz and give him his long-awaited middleweight title shot.
For the first time in his mixed martial arts career Munoz intends to put his employer on the spot Wednesday night with a win over fast-rising Chris Weidman. The two are set to meet in the UFC on Fuel TV main event at HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif.
And while there are rumblings that a victory will land Munoz a title shot, he realizes that isn’t a guarantee. Others have been making a push to be the next opponent for 185-pound champion Anderson Silva as well; Michael Bisping has campaigned heavily in recent weeks and former light heavyweight titleholder Rashad Evans tossed his hat into the mix this past weekend.
Munoz is aware of their presence and has decided it’s time to up the ante. He'll no longer sit quietly and allow another title shot to pass him by.
“I’ve been in the [UFC] for more than three years; I’ve paid my dues,” Munoz told ESPN.com. “I’ve been that guy who’s always let his fighting do the talking; now I’ve got to do some actual talking. I have to be more vocal on where I should be in the weight class. I’m definitely going to say things now. I’m going to be more vocal about it because I can’t pass up opportunities by saying, ‘I’ll take whatever the UFC gives me.’
“I have to be vocal and let them know I’m here to be champion. I want to become a champion, I’m doing what it takes to become a champion and I should be the No. 1 contender after this fight.”
Munoz’s vocal campaign will fall on deaf ears, however, unless he raises eyebrows against Weidman. It’s not enough to say you want a title shot; a fighter must prove it inside the Octagon. And that’s what Munoz is determined to do Wednesday night.
“It’s very important for me to be impressive in this fight,” Munoz said. “I have to make a statement to prove that I’m the guy to be the No. 1 contender.
“Chris Weidman is undefeated for a reason; he’s a great competitor. But I’ve shown that it’s my time. A win over him -- a fantastic win -- shuts up the critics. And it will actually solidify me as the No. 1 contender.”
Though Munoz is hell-bent on making his voice heard, he won’t employ the tactic used by Chael Sonnen to garner additional attention. Sonnen landed two title shots within a two-year span in part due to his open hostility toward the champion.
Munoz doesn’t hold any animosity toward Silva. There won’t be derogatory statements coming out of Munoz’s mouth directed at Silva’s homeland of Brazil or Silva's family, friends or training partners.
What Munoz will reveal is his deep belief that he can and will dethrone the champion if given the chance.
“I’m capable of beating anybody inside the Octagon, even if it’s Anderson Silva,” said Munoz, who is a high-level wrestler. “I have the tools to do that.
“When I get on top of somebody, I don’t just try to score points. I try to finish the fight. But at the same time that I’m saying this, I respect Anderson Silva as a champion, as a fighter and as a friend. I’m not discrediting what he’s done for the sport. What I’m saying is that I want to be champion, too. I’ve trained my butt off to be able to do so and accomplish my goals.”
Munoz has quietly waited for UFC officials to offer him a title shot. Starting Wednesday, expect him to get in their faces and loudly proclaim that it’s his turn.
He'll do so respectfully, of course, and most likely with a smile.