MMA: Fil-Am Mark Striegl vows to bounce back from UFC debut loss

Mathew Scott, South China Morning Post

Posted at Feb 18 2022 11:32 PM

Bantamweight returns to cage to fight American Chas Skelly at UFC Vegas 48

It took more than a decade for Philippine-based bantamweight Mark Striegl to get his first fight in the UFC. It took exactly 51 seconds for it to end.

But if all those years in the cage have taught the 33-year-old one thing it’s you take your setbacks much like your successes in that your attention quickly switches to the next challenge.

“Definitely not the way I wanted to debut but life can be a roller coaster, especially in the sport that is MMA. It’s actually even crazier in MMA,” says Striegl. “So I just took that loss in my stride, focused on the positives and chalked it all up to life experience. At the end of the day it’s all part of the journey.”

The 33-year-old Striegl (18-3, one no contest) returns to the Octagon this weekend to face American Chas Skelly (18-3, one no contest) on the UFC Vegas 48 card out of the organisation’s Apex facility. The bout adds another chapter to what has been a wild ride across the past two years, one that has showcased the highs and lows of the sport, as much as it has life shadowed by the global pandemic.

There was the joy of being lifted out of regional promotions and being offered a UFC contract, in mid-2020. Then there was a positive Covid-19 test that ruled out Striegl’s scheduled debut in August of that year. There was that loss to Said Nurmagomedov (15-2), a fight the Russian ended with a short left, and a flurry when Striegl hit the canvas, in just under a minute. Then there was recovery from the damage inflicted as Striegl had his battered orbital socket rebuilt.

Striegl was back in the gym and ready to roll again in 2021 only to hurt himself in training And so the wait for a fight began once again.

“People talk about UFC jitters, but I felt okay before that first fight. It felt like just another fight to me,” Striegl said. “I was just happy that I was there and now it’s just been a case of waiting to get back in there and fight again. Sure I’ve had setbacks but that is all part of the game.”

Little wonder that the Striegl saga has been picked up by local broadcasters in the Philippines, and a three-part documentary that follows all the drama has been screening nationwide over the past month. Striegl is the only fighter on the UFC books to be based full-time out of the Philippines, a remarkable notion in itself given the country’s rich history in combat sports, and a population that lives and breathes the stuff.

There’s colour, too, in the fact that for more than a decade Striegl has been based out of in Baguio City, the famed mountain retreat on the northern island of Luzon that in the past has hosted Philippine boxing legend Manny Pacquiao and his brutal pre-fight training camps. It’s a city that echoes with the history of combat, dating right back to the 1700s when the local tribesmen took on the invading Spanish colonialists, and they were never fully conquered.

The Tokyo-born Striegl first came to Baguio for a fight – against one of the warriors from the local Team Lakay MMA talent factory – and he then fell in love with a local lass, and the city.

“I’m not a local son of Baguio but definitely I love the culture,” explains Striegl. “The people from Baguio are strong, proud mountain people. I had heard about Manny Pacquiao training there, and that the city had all these great fighters, and all this history. I feel I definitely have a lot of pride for Baguio. I’m happy living there and proud that I live there.”

With the memory of the loss to Nurmagomedov now consigned to history, Striegl is looking forward to giving the fans at home something to cheer at the UFC Apex this weekend.

“Chas is a scrapper,” says Striegl, who’s been training out of George Castro’s MMA Lab in Peoria, Arizona, for the past month. “He’s just a scrappy, hard-nosed veteran fighter. And that’s what I expect out of him. I think it’s gonna be a tough dogfight, and I’m ready for that. I’ve trained hard for that. I think Chas is a great person to test my skills against and I like how we match up with him.”

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