Maybe, if they’re lucky, once they’ve established their name, they’ll get an invite to one of the sport’s biggest camps. But that’s no guarantee.
Pedro Munhoz, though, isn’t like most fighters. The Resurrection Fighting Alliancebantamweight champion has been in the sport just five years and will have his 10th pro bout Friday night, when he defends his belt against Billy Daniels at RFA 12 in Los Angeles.
But the 27-year-old Sao Paulo, Brazil native has a training resume few can match. The Black House fighter has counted B.J. Penn, Anderson Silva, and Lyoto Machida among those under whom he’s learned. That’s a more than a decade’s worth of UFC title reigns over four different weight classes.
Munhoz (9-0) knows his MMA path has been a little different than most.
“I’m blessed,” Munhoz recently told MMAFighting.com. “I know I’ve had an opportunity to learn from the best in the world and I know that’s not something that everyone can say. I appreciate every moment. Trust me, I know I’m getting chances other people don’t get and I take advantage.”
After starting off on Brazilian regional circuits, it didn’t take long for Munhoz, a jiu-jitsu black belt, to hit the sort of career wall in which it became tough to find the types of opponents who could help advance his career. After improving to 6-0 with a victory in July, 2011, Munhoz went a full 16 months without a fight — and it wasn’t for a lack of trying.
Munhoz shakes his head and laughs as he recounts the litany of mishaps. “Six opponents I had fall out,” Munhoz said. “Six times. One time, the guy actually showed up for the weigh-in, and then the next day he was nowhere to be found. Guys would agree to fight, then they’d see videos of my fights, and all of a sudden they couldn’t fight. Sometimes it was because the opponent was legitimately injured in training, but sometimes they would just disappear. It was very frustrating.”
That changed once Munhoz became affiliated with Black House leader and RFA promoter Ed Soares. Working with the likes of famed striking coach Rafael Cordeiro and standout wrestling coach Kenny Johnson, Munhoz is turning into a well-rounded fighter. Munhoz is 3-0 in the RFA, including a decision win over Jeff Curran at RFA 9 to claim the company’s bantamweight belt.
“I go out looking for the finish every time I fight,” Munhoz said. “I like to be an exciting fighter. I didn’t get the finish that night because Jeff Curran is a respected, longtime fighter, but it was a good experience to go five rounds. Once I beat Jeff I think people started to realize that I can fight.”
Unlike other prospects in Munhoz’s position who fight for other promotions, Munhoz doesn’t have to pretend as if a spot in the UFC isn’t his endgame. RFA is an unofficial feeder league to the UFC and the only one licensed to use an Octagon cage.
Munhoz has seen other successful RFA lighter-weight fighters, such as Sergio Pettis andChris Holdsworth, move on to the big stage and get their opportunity. Munhoz is hopeful that his time isn’t too far off.
“Of course the UFC is the goal,” Munhoz said. “That’s where the best in my class are, guys like Renan Barao and Urijah Faber and Dominick Cruz. I have a good and dangerous opponent ahead of me and I don’t want to look past him, but yes, of course I want to go to the UFC. I hope I get the call with one more win. I feel like I’m turning into a complete, well rounded fighter and if I get the call, I’ll go.”
Munhoz lives these days in Torrance, the birthplace of the UFC, and splits his time between Silva’s Muay Thai College in Torrance and the Black House gym in nearby Gardena. Munhoz, of course, has an opinion on whether his mentor should return after his horrific leg break.
“I hope he returns,” said Munhoz. “I hope he does. Whether it is a superfight or a title fight or whatever it is, I hope he comes back. Anderson Silva has done great things, great things no one has ever seen in the Octagon before. It would be a shame if he didn’t get to return and do his amazing things one more time. What happened that night, no one wanted to see that happen and I have confidence he’ll be back stronger than ever.”