At URCC Global: Colossal on 29 September, Mark Striegl finally gets a title shot, and he’s taking nothing for granted.
In 2010, when MMA was just beginning to reemerge in Asia, Mark Striegl started blazing a path through the featherweight division. He was entering he sport at a unique time when smaller organizations and start ups were snapping up the talent left behind from the hay day of PRIDE and Sengoku, and new acolytes such as himself were looking to get a foothold.
Striegl was in the perfect starting position. He grew up in Japan watching PRIDE, watching his older brother take up martial arts, and he wrestled in school. By the time he was a senior, his wrestling record was 77-1 and it was time to move on to MMA. The nearest dojo just happened to be Wayjutsu Keishukai GODS, run by one of the best lightweights of the day, Yuji Hoshino, and it was the stable for many other top Japanese fighters like Taiyo Nakahara and Koji Ando.
Striegl then attended the University of San Diego in the US and continued his MMA training at Victory MMA and Alliance MMA under the watchful eyes of fighters like Dominick Cruz, Dean Lister and Toby Imada. He made his MMA pro debut there then moved back to Asia.
The rest is (almost) history. In Striegl’s initial run of four years, he went 11-0 undefeated against the who’s who of his fellow prospects and some big names, like Kwon Bae-Yong, Yusuke Kawanago, Ev Ting and Harris Sarmiento. All but two of his wins had ended in a submission. This earned Striegl his first title shot at the vacant PXC belt against Kim Jang-Yong.
In an upset, the underdog Kim came out and overwhelmed an unusually lethargic Striegl. Kim would beat him in the third round at his own game, by a kimura submission. Striegl had been sick right up to the bout, but he never once gave that as an excuse. At the time, he was extremely mature about handling his very first loss.
“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.”
Over the next four years, Striegl racked up another 5-1 to his record, beating Kai Kara-France and former URCC bantamweight champ Andrew Benibe. Finally, nine years after his debut, he has a title fight lined up again. Striegl is more than ready.
“I fought last December in Cebu – I guess it’s almost a year ago. That’s a long camp, so most definitely I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in. I’ve been working extremely hard with Coach George Castro and all my teammates at FIST Gym.”
When Striegl handed his last opponent, Kim Gi-Sung, the loss, he found an immediate next match right after his hand was raised. Kim’s teammate and current URCC featherweight champ Lee stormed the cage. Lee’s smack talk and jibes haven’t stopped.
“That’s kind of where this rivalry started. He can’t event be compared to McGregor’s bravado at all. For one, he talked a big game in Cebu after I beat his teammate, but now he’s getting quiet as the fight nears. I think he got overly emotional in Cebu and now he’s getting nervous. Don’t get me wrong, he’s the champ and he’s a good fighter, but I believe I’m in his head.”
Striegl won’t rely on the mental aspect to win the fight. He’s far too experienced to believe that the belt’s already his just because he thinks his opponent may have some nerves.
“I’ve trained for this. I have a few training partners who have helped mimic his tendencies. Honestly, I feel that I’m better everywhere and I’ll be confident wherever the fight goes. I’m focused on what I’m going to do, not on what he can do.”
On the other hand, Striegl won’t let his own emotions about the title rule his thinking.
“To me, every fight is big, but yes, this is a title shot with the original and longest running MMA promotion of the Philippines, the URCC. So I’ll be bringing my very best.”
URCC Global: Colossal takes place on 29 September in the Philippines.