Mark Striegl is set to co-headline the 26th instalment of One Championship: Valor of Champions at Mall of Asia Arena in the Philippines on 24th April, 2015. His debut with the promotion sets up a new phase in his impressive career.
Filipino-American Striegl will meet the undefeated American Casey Suire in the cage, and the grappling ace will be looking to get his hometown crowd to their feet. During his fight camp, MMA-in-ASIA took the opportunity to catch up with Striegl about his foundation in the martial arts, his recent move to Evolve MMA, and his thoughts on his upcoming fight.
MMA-in-Asia: You started life in Japan, but in the last couple of years you’ve moved to the Philippines. Then recently, you’ve made another big move in your home and career.
Striegl: I‘m a member of the Evolve Fight Team at Evolve MMA now, and I’m also an instructor. For the last few years before moving to Singapore, I lived in Baguio City in the Philippines, which I now consider my home.
MMA-in-Asia: What was your path into the martial arts in the first place?
Striegl: One person who inspired me most was my older brother, Frank. Like most young boys who grew up following in their older brothers’ footsteps, I was no different. He started training in wrestling and Aikido. I thought then that he looked cool when he trained. So, naturally I picked up these martial arts as well.
MMA-in-Asia: How and when did you decide to make the transition into MMA?
Striegl: I grew up watching PRIDE on TV, so it got me even more interested in the sport of MMA. I thought it was beautiful how MMA mixed all the different disciplines of martial arts together. As a wrestler, I achieved a record of 77-1. My coaches then felt that after having had substantial experience honing these skills, I was ready to embark on the next stage of my journey, which was MMA. During my senior year of high school in Tokyo, I joined a local MMA dojo near my house and it was there that I met Yuji Hoshino and was able to train with many other top Japanese fighters like Taiyo Nakahara and Koji Ando.
MMA-in-Asia: How did your professional fight career get started? Ironically, it wasn’t in Japan.
Striegl: I attended the University of San Diego in America and continued to train at Victory MMA and Alliance MMA. I was lucky to train and work with guys like Dominick Cruz, Shannon Gugerty, Dean Lister, Toby Imada, and Tony Palafox. They were critical in shaping the way I developed as an MMA fighter. In 2009, I had my professional MMA debut in San Diego. After I won, I decided that I was ready to move back to Asia where I fought for various promotions. I eventually found my home in Baguio City, Philippines. Now I’m honoured to be training alongside the many World Champions here at Evolve MMA, and to be a part of the prestigious Evolve Fight Team. I absolutely can’t wait to make my ONE Championship debut in my home country.
MMA-in-Asia: What is your biggest strength, apart from your grappling skills, that you bring into the cage with you? What do you think gives you a competitive edge vis-à-vis the respective opponents that you’ve face in your fights?
Striegl: I believe that my biggest strength is my will to win. I developed that since I was young, competing in wrestling and Aikido. I train for my fights only with one vision, and that is to win. Beyond that, I’m constantly moving forward and my approach has always been to give a ‘Fight of the Night’ performance. You’ll never see me in a boring fight.
MMA-in-Asia: What do you feel you need to work on to improve your performance in the cage?
Striegl: Everything! I believe that as a mixed martial artist, one needs to constantly improve in all aspects of the game on a daily basis. I believe in raising the bar at every opportunity I get during training. That’s the beauty of martial arts, the learning curve is never ending! I was asked before if I had to work on my striking skills because I played better on the ground, but the truth is that I have to work on everything! In MMA, you can’t just rely on one aspect of the game.
MMA-in-Asia: How did you get your nickname, “Mugen”?
Striegl: I used to watch a popular anime about a warrior named ‘Mugen’ and it stuck with me ever since. In Japanese ‘Mugen’ means ‘limitless’. I believe that as a fighter, one’s learning opportunities and potential are truly limitless.
MMA-in-Asia: Within your 13-1 fight record, which was your best fight and why?
Striegl: I don’t have a best fight, to be honest. Each fight has been unique and special in its own way. I met fighters with different sets of skills and different fight styles and each of them posed a different kind of challenge. So all fights to me were great fights.
MMA-in-Asia: When you were defeated at the hands of Jang Yong Kim at PXC 39, what do you think went wrong for you there and what have you learnt from that experience?
Striegl: That was possibly one of the best experiences I got in terms of learning where I went wrong. I learned more from that loss than from any of my other 13 professional victories. On hindsight, there were some things that I could have done differently, but at the end of the day, he was the better fighter that night. It only served to make me work even harder during training, and to never be complacent about it under any circumstances.
MMA-in-Asia: ONE Championship 26 is going to be your debut for the promotion. Why did you choose to sign with ONE?
Striegl: Having fought with numerous promotions all these years, I felt I was ready now to be a part of the largest promotion in Asia, and most importantly, Asia is my home. Fighting in front of my home crowd with Asia’s largest promotion is an honour for me.
MMA-in-Asia: Your opponent Casey Suire – while remaining undefeated to date – has significantly less experience than you do. Does this make you more confident and more prepared to face him in the cage?
Striegl: Having more fight experience than Casey doesn’t affect my confidence. Earlier in my career I fought many opponents who had much more experience than I did. I saw it as a good way to learn from the best in their field. At the end of the day, a fight is a fight and whoever brings it, wins.
MMA-in-Asia: How have you prepared? Can you please expound on your training regime?
Striegl: Without revealing too much about my game plan, all I can say is that I’ve pushed myself every single day during training sessions with the rest of my teammates. My coaches and training partners are not letting me go into the cage unprepared. Come April 24th, I’ll be ready to put on a show!
MMA-in-Asia: What about diet? How is the weight cut process for you?
Striegl: Weight cut is never fun, but dieting is part of the fight process. I love food, but I’m giving up all that up for now, the moment the fight ends I’m heading out for a good meal! I’ll be eating up a storm!
MMA-in-Asia: How do you see yourself finishing the fight on April 24th?
Striegl: I see the fight ending early in the first or second round. Whether on the ground or on my feet, I’m definitely looking to have my hand raised at the end of the fight.
MMA-in-Asia: Ev Ting called you out recently and wants to avenge his defeat by you at Legend FC. What are your thoughts on that?
Striegl: It really doesn’t matter to me who calls me out to be honest, I will fight anyone that ONE Championship pits me against. Whoever it is, I’m coming for that ONE Championship Bantamweight World Championship belt.
MMA-in-Asia: What advice would you give up-and-coming MMA fighters striving emulate your success?
Striegl: My advice would be to find a good gym with excellent training partners. Always be open to learning something every day, that’s the beauty of martial arts as I said earlier, the learning never stops and there’s always room to learn something new or improve upon something. Never be complacent. No one can claim to be the best striker or the best grappler. No one. This is because martial arts is a continuous journey of learning.
MMA-in-Asia: Would you like to thank anyone?
Striegl: Thank you to Chatri Sityodtong for giving me the opportunity to be a part of the Evolve Fight Team and be a part of the amazing Evolve family. I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank all my fans, and my sponsors Bacchus Energy Drink, Guitar Underwear, Gold’s Gym, and PUMA.