By Anna Valmero
BAGUIO CITY, BENGUET – Carrying a Philippine flag before and after his fights has been a trademark of Fil-American mixed martial arts fighter Mark “Mugen” Striegl. His reason: he loves his Filipino roots and is very proud to represent the country throughout his professional career.
“I grew up in Tokyo because my parents are based there as teachers. My mother is from Calapan in Oriental Mindoro and my father is from New York. I decided to go back in the Philippines to train in Baguio and I consider the Philippines my country,” Mark says in an interview with LOQAL.ph.
“As for carrying the Philippine flag, Filipinos are very proud people and we are very passionate people. I am proud of my heritage and proud to be living in Baguio now. Fighting in Manila is a dream of mine,” the 5’8″ pro MMA fighter adds.
Mark looks up to fighters like Brandon Vera and Mark Munoz, both of Filipino lineage and competing at the Universal Fighting Championship (UFC). He is currently training under Team Buffet/Fight Corps MMA, which is based in Baguio City.
Having been born to parents from two different countries and growing up elsewhere makes the 24-year-old Mark a “third-culture” kid. His exposure to Japanese culture during his growing up years was actually one of the reasons he is pursuing his MMA career.
Growing up, he loved watching anime and reading Japanese manga such as Rourouni Kenshin and Samurai Champloo, the main character of which was the inspiration for his fighter nickname, “Mugen.” In Japanese, the name translates to infinite and limitless.
Mark picked the name just before his third professional fight with fellow Filipino MMA fighter Crisanto Pitpitunge of Team Lakay during a URCC tournament in 2011.
After graduating from St. Mary’s International School in Tokyo, he entered a local dojo to see his fighting skills. “I was 17 and it was an eye-opener for me that there is so much to learn in combat sports and it made me realized my passion for the sport.”
He was also exposed to Olympic-style wrestling and combat sports aikido. For a while, he was a wrestling coach and English tutor in Tokyo before going to the Philippines to train full-time to become a pro MMA fighter.
He considers wrestling as his base martial art for fighting, which bodes well for a strong ground fighter like him. But as the name suggests, a good MMA fighter is one that is well-rounded in different combat sports.
“In MMA, you need to be well-rounded to do a bit of everything. You need to work on your striking, wrestling, Muay Thai, karate and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu,” Mark says.
He considers MMA a pure combat sport where fighters give out their best. “An adage that I live by is: Go big or go home. I always believe you need to go all out in everything you do, no regrets, and give it your everything. That’s what MMA is like.”
Like other fighters who are training for a fight, he follows a strict diet rich in fiber and protein, and cuts down on foods high in sugar and cholesterol. “The diet is the hardest part of the training,” he asserts.
The Baguio-based fighter was noticed by Filipino MMA spectators after an impressive win over Guam-based Robert Wusstig via submission during the co-main event at last Saturday’s Pacific Xtreme Combat (PXC) 33. His debut win at PXC cemented his undefeated record of 11-0, of which nine wins are via submission.
Fresh from his recent win, Mark is focused on fine-tuning his Jiu Jitsu and Western boxing skills, among others.
Prior to PXC, he got the attention of promoters after his win over Bae Young Kwon of Team Posse at the PRO Fighting 4 – 180 in 2010. That win – one of only two wins via decision – gave Kwon his first loss in his MMA career. Throughout his pro career, Mark considers Kwon his hardest opponent to date.
He attributes his undefeated streak to hard work, hundreds of hours of practice, and his passion for the sport. On whether mental preparation is more important than physical preparation, he says “there is a need to balance the two”.
“You should love the sport and be passionate about it because if you aren’t, you will have difficulty finding the motivation to train five hours a day to shape up and prepare. You must love the competition.”
He aims to continue winning the next two fights under his contract with PXC. He has no plans in the horizon to shift camps because he is happy with PXC being one of the biggest promotions in the region.
With an 11-0 record, the 24-year-old fighter is excited to have a shot at a title fight soon. “I talked to PXC and they said if I win impressively, I will be given a title fight soon. If not soon, then I will continue fighting but I definitely want a shot at the title.”
So how long does he see himself doing MMA? “It (MMA) is a young man’s sport and I don’t want to get punched in the face forever. I don’t wanna count the years. As long as my body holds up, I am healthy and as long as I enjoy competing, I’ll keep fighting.”
His advice for aspiring MMA fighters; “Train hard. If you are serious about it and you want to go professional, make sure you are passionate about the sport because it takes a lot of sacrifice and commitment from training and your personal life. Make sure to love what you do; and just go big or go home.”
Adventure Races Archery Basketball Biking Billiards and Snooker Boat Racing Boxing Climbing Cycling Extreme Sports Fitness Activities and Concerns Football Golf Martial Arts Mixed Martial Arts Motorsports NCAA Outdoor Sports Rugby Running Sorts Activities and Competition sports Sports Activities and Competition Sports and Fitness Products Sports Events Sports News and Concerns Surfing UAAP Volleyball Water Sports and Activities Weightlifting World Cup