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Much-respected Mark Munoz walks away on own terms

By Daniel Austin, Calgary Sun

Mark Munoz celebrates his win over Chris Leben during UFC 138 at the LG Arena in Birmingham, UK, on Nov. 5, 2011. (WENN.com)

Mark Munoz celebrates his win over Chris Leben during UFC 138 at the LG Arena in Birmingham, UK, on Nov. 5, 2011. (WENN.com)

Whatever happens Saturday night in Manila, Mark Munoz will walk away from the UFC as the envy of many of his peers.

It's not so much that Munoz will be stepping away from professional fighting on top. The 37-year-old has lost four of his last five fights, after all, and beating Luke Barnatt in the UFC Fight Night: Manila headliner is no guarantee.

But more that he's leaving the sport on his own terms.

Munoz doesn't appear to have any significant injuries, he'll step into the octagon for the final time in front of an adoring crowd of Filipino fans in the city where his parents were born, and he'll leave MMA with the almost universal respect of his fellow fighters.

Given the sad state of so many MMA stars when they are finally forced to walk away, that's almost miraculous.

When asked by media this week about his reasons for leaving MMA -- and he shut down the California gym he owned prior to the fight, so he's not kidding around -- Munoz chalked it up to family. Not a bad reason.

"From the time (daughter Alexa) was born, she's always seen me and known me as a competitor," Munoz told Yahoo Sports. "I missed a lot of special moments in her life and I don't want to make the same mistake with my other three kids."

Fighters are so often expected to put on blinders and focus exclusively on improving their skill set that it's easy to forget they have lives and priorities outside the octagon.

Munoz has always seemed different, though, and that's endeared him to fans. There's never been any Conor McGregor-style trash talking, just discipline and respect for martial arts. Bad blood might sell fights, but that wasn't what Munoz was about. He just sort of seemed like a good guy.

That, in turn, has earned him the respect of his peers.

"I wanted to leave a lasting impact on everyone I came into contact with," Munoz told Yahoo. "It's what I'm about, honestly, encouraging them when they're down and inspiring them and motivating them at different times. A lot of guys I fought actually came to me and trained with me and learned from me with respect to wrestling. I just wanted to treat people the way I felt I should be treated."

After seeing so many fighters limp through the final stages of their career and refuse to walk away when all signs screamed that they should, Munoz should serve as an example of how an MMA star can leave the sport with his dignity intact.

BIG BANS

The Nevada State Athletic Commission has finally agreed on sweeping changes to its drug policy.

What did they decide? If you use performance enhancing drugs, be prepared to be punished.

The commission voted Friday on a new set of guidelines that will massively increase administrative punishments for athletes found to have used banned substances, with three-year suspensions for first-time offenders and a fine of 40-50% of a fight purse.

Anyone stupid enough to get caught three times will be banned for life, while every positive drug test will see wins turned into losses, rather than no-contests.

The new guidelines will go into effect Sept. 1.

The decision comes months after the UFC publicly called for longer suspensions after a slew of positive tests -- most notably Anderson Silva -- made headlines around the world.

The new guidelines to break down the banned substances into four categories, with steroid users getting three years for a first offence, stimulant and diuretics users receiving two years and users of sedatives, muscle relaxants, sleep aids, anxiolytics, opiates and marijuana getting 18 months.

daniel.austin@sunmedia.ca

@SUNDannyAustin

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