Mark Striegl healthy and ready to finally make UFC debut

After overcoming COVID-19, Filipino fighter Mark Striegl is now ready to make his delayed UFC debut on Sunday against Said Nurmagomedov, which will open the undercard of UFC Fight Night: Ortega vs Korean Zombie at "Fight Island" in Abu Dhabi.

The Baguio-based Striegl (18-2) was supposed to take on Russian Timur Vailev in the undercard of UFC Fight Night: Munhoz vs Edgar on Aug. 22, but tested positive for coronavirus and was replaced by American Trevin Jones.

Luckily for him, he had experienced no symptoms, and resumed training for his replacement fight after his recovery.

"I'm healthy again. Thank God for that. And I had good training in Vegas, I had great training at Syndicate MMA, and here we are," Striegl told ESPN5.com in an interview.

He had actually been training at the aforementioned Las Vegas gym since late July, and was supposed to fight in the city before he received the bad news.

"UFC has really set the stage and is at the forefront for leading sports during this time of COVID-19. And what they've done here in Fight Island is awesome," described the Fil-Am fighter.

Flying from Las Vegas, Striegl and his corner underwent the mandatory 48-hour quarantine period. They tested negative and has been roaming through the hotel rented exclusively for the UFC.

Stregil also shared that he is on track for his weight cut, saying it won't pose a problem once the match starts. He also believes that he matches well against Nurmagomedov, a three-fight veteran in the UFC. The submission specialist believes that his style bodes well for a victory inside the Octagon.

Being a national athlete as well, he hopes more opportunities can line up for Filipinos who want to pursue mixed martial arts.

"More gyms, more training. It's totally starting to happen in the Philippines, we have great jiu-jitsu programs and jiu-jitsu world champions right now. So I think it's really going to be a matter of time," explained the former URCC Global featherweight champion.

"I wish that we had more wrestling programs in the Philippines, in K-12. Having wrestling as part of the school curriculum. We do have a lot of great judo programs but I think [Brazilian jiu-jitsu] and wrestling would benefit it greatly."

With more promotions opening its doors for Filipinos, Striegl hopes more of his countrymen can reach the big leagues in order to boost the popularity of the sport in the country.

"I do think MMA in the Philippines is as big as boxing, but of course, you can't compare that to a Manny Pacquiao fight. It's a matter of time that more Filipinos advance to the big leagues, in the UFC and ONE Championship. I think there's gonna be upward growth in a matter of time," said Striegl.

Before his UFC journey, Striegl became a multiple-time wrestling champion in Japan, and fought in different promotions such as the URCC, ONE, PXC, and Legend FC.