Middleweight contender Mark Munoz keeps friends close, which is tough business in UFC (Yahoo Sports)


These are strange times for Mark Munoz. Earlier this year, he admitted he was so depressed by a 2012 loss to Chris Weidman that he ballooned up to 261 pounds, an astonishing 76 pounds over the middleweight limit where he fights.

Munoz also had to deal with the emotional meltdown of a friend, ex-fighter Jason "Mayhem" Miller. Miller was arrested three times in a short period of time, and Munoz was forced to obtain a restraining order to bar Miller from his Southern California gym.

And then, training for an important bout against Michael Bisping, he learned that not only was Bisping hurt, but that he'd have to fight one of his close friends, Lyoto Machida, instead of Bisping.

That's not all. If he wants a title shot and, more importantly revenge on Weidman, he not only has to beat his close friend Saturday in the main event of a UFC card in Manchester, England, but he'll also be forced to root against one later this year.

Munoz is close with former middleweight champion Anderson Silva, who will face Weidman in a rematch on Dec. 28 in Las Vegas.

Munoz is not guaranteed a title shot with a win over Machida on Saturday, but his odds against him ever getting one will increase dramatically with a loss.

If he wins, he's then faced with the unpleasant situation of having to root against Silva in order to land his dream fight against Weidman.

[Related: Georges St-Pierre won't let PED accusations taint his love of fighting]

"It's not ideal," Munoz said.

One of the nicest and easy-going men in the sport, Munoz wasn't sure what to say when the UFC called with the news that Bisping was out and that Machida was in as his replacement.

Only days earlier, Munoz and Machida had a training session together.

"You hear it all the time in this sport where guys say they don't want to fight their training partners and they don't want to fight their friends," Munoz said. "It's a tough situation, it really is. You share a lot together, but we're all professionals and we understand it's a business.

"We have to go out and do what we have to do. This is my job and maybe it's not the part of it I like, and it's one I'd rather avoid, but you have to just accept it and move on when it happens. Lyoto and I will have a great fight, and we made a deal that the winner buys dinner."

It's going to be tough for Munoz to adjust, not only because he's facing a friend, but also because Machida's style is vastly different from Bisping's.

Injuries are so prevalent in the fight business that everyone knows it's possible that opponents could change at the last minute, but it still is difficult to have to change gears so late in the game.

Munoz has the benefit of having seen Machida's game up close, and he has an idea of what to expect. Still, there will be a lot of unknowns on Saturday once the bell rings.

"If you want to be the champion and be at the top, this is the kind of thing you have to be able to deal with," Munoz said.

And so he proclaims himself ready and said he believes he's better than he was when he was beaten by Weidman. Then, he was coming off an impressive four-fight winning streak.

He struggled to come to grips with the loss, ballooned up in weight and had doubts about what he was doing.

But he got over that and was impressive at UFC 162 in a victory over Tim Boetsch. A win over Machida, a former light heavyweight champion, would be a massive step on his goal toward a rematch with Weidman and a middleweight title shot.

"A win over a former world champion, especially one as highly regarded as Lyoto, would be huge for me," Munoz said. "It would definitely put my name in the mix. I think it would put the entire division on watch and let the UFC know I deserve that title shot."

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