One the fastest rising Mixed Martial Arts training facility these days is the Reign Training Center in Lake Forest, California. Home for many top MMA fighters in the world including its head man Mark Munoz, Reign is also home for many up and coming fighters in MMA. Current heavyweight Manny Lara is one of those fighters looking to learn from the top guys in the gym and make a name for himself in the process.
Just days after Munoz lost to Chris Weidman at UFC on Fuel TV 4 we talked with Manny Lara about the mood at Reign, what it was like training with these top guys in the sport and how he got into the sport.
First off for those that do not know you, why don’t you give us a little background as to why you got into MMA and just who is Manny Lara?
The reason I got into MMA was because I was working for a nutrition company that Chuck Liddell was involved in called IcemanRX. I was working a booth that we had at the IMMAE convention in Long Beach, California, and as I was walking around the convention center I ran into Jason De La O, who is the owner of Long Beach Fight Night. They were getting ready to have their first event, so he asked me if I fight, and jokingly I said “not legally.” He ended up giving me a couple of tickets to their first show. I thought since the owner of the company gave me tickets they would have to be great seats… That wasn’t the case (laughs). I was up in the nosebleed section, but was still excited to be at a live event. Once a couple of the fighters that were in the same weight class that I would be fighting in got up in the ring and fought, I thought to myself, “I can really beat these guys.”
I remember being about 6 or 7 years old when I first saw the UFC. My cousins were in the military and were getting ready to be deployed so our family had a get-together at my aunt’s house, and the UFC was on TV. I didn’t know what it was but grew up watching boxing with my father so I knew I liked watching people punch each other in the face (laughs). After watching the first event I had no clue where to look for it again or how to watch, so for years all I ever watched as far as combat sports was boxing and the occasional kickboxing matches they would show on TV. I was too consumed picking my nose and watching Looney Toons to worry about grown men punching each other.
Once I moved to Orange County and hit high school I had already been in too many “street fights,” so my parents decided to move us to a better neighborhood. I was born in East Los Angeles and so when I came to the “OC” I got picked on for being the “brown kid.” I had a very short temper so once anyone said anything to me I just reacted. I got caught a few times and other times no one said a word. A lot of what fueled me in my youth was anger. At the time I thought that’s how grown men handled things and I had nowhere to release all those emotions until my freshmen year of football. I really thought I could make it to the NFL and dedicated myself to learning the game because I never played tackle football. Once that chapter of my life closed I was devastated. I was getting ready to go on the hardest journey of my life being a teenage father so I had to focus all my energy into that…and I failed. The first couple of years of my son’s life I was out drinking and just surrounding myself with the wrong crowd. But that’s a story for another time. Long story short and to answer your question, after the fighting event I decided to pursue fighting and see where it would take me. I got my life together as best as I could, and so far it’s been a roller coaster and I’m enjoying the ride.
I am Manny Lara and I am a son of God, a father, husband, brother, friend, and cousin, but at the end of the day, I AM A FIGHTER.
With a nickname like “Bam Bam” is it safe to say you’re a striker?
I would say that I like to knock my opponents out but looking back at my career and all the great people I’ve had a chance to train with I can now say I’m an MMA fighter.
Where did the nickname come from?
An uncle of an old friend gave it to me when I was a teenager because I would always get in fights.
The internet has your record at 4-1 but having not fought since August, 2011. Why the long layoff?
I broke my right hand in that fight so I had to get surgery and rehab it for about four months. Once I got back into training I wanted to make sure I was in shape for my next fight, but I never anticipated such a long layoff. I’m the hungriest I’ve ever been to get back in there and show everyone what I can do.
When are you scheduled to fight again?
I don’t have anything signed, so I’m not sure when my next fight is but that’s why I started working with Apex Sports Management. We’re working on something for September.
The big thing right now is dropping down a weight class, as a small heavyweight have you ever thought about getting down to 205 lbs.?
I’ve actually had that in my mind for my last couple of fights, and yes I am dropping down to 205 either this next fight or the fight after that.
You train out of Reign MMA which is Mark Munoz’s gym. Do you get to train with him and what type of coach is he?
Yes I do train with Mark every day. I also get to train with all the other great talented fighters we have their at the gym, like Jake Ellenberger, Krzysztof Soszynski , Brett Cooper, Emanuel Newton, Brendan Schaub, Jason “Mayhem” Miller, and Jay Silva, amongst others. We’ve also had a lot of guests coming in, like Fabricio Werdum, Wanderlei Silva, Anderson Silva, Urijah Faber and all the team Alpha Male guys, Shannon Slack, “Shogun” Rua, Lyoto Machida, and others. Mark is an excellent coach. He’s always making sure he’s the hardest working guy in the room. He holds nothing back and pours all of his knowledge on to us to help make us better fighters and people. He’s constantly studying the sport to get better and tells us to make our weakness our strengths. He also makes sure we have to best coaches for every discipline and really focuses on his “5 D’s to success” (desire, direction, discipline, diligence, and dedication) I wouldn’t have it any other way or train with anyone else. The website is, www.train2reign.com, in case anyone wants to learn more.
How is taking the UFC on FUEL TV 4 defeat to Chris Weidman?
As far as how he’s taking it, I spoke to him the day after and he seemed in good spirits. Of course he was down on himself and felt that he let everybody down, but I’m positive that he’ll learn from this loss and come back and work harder than ever. We all took the loss very hard. It’s hard to see when your “leader” or team captain, if you will, goes down in battle. Just like what he did, we have to get up, dust ourselves off, and fight another day. He always leads by example and it’s great to watch.
Finally, is there anyone that you’d like to thank or give a shout out too?
I’d like to thank you guys for the interview, God for opening my eyes, my gym Reign Training Center, all my family and friends for always believing in me, Mark and Kristi Munoz for allowing me to be part of the Reign family, Yoshi for helping me out, Apex, Sacrifice Apparel, and all my future sponsors that pay me (laughs). Also my wonderful wife Ashley and my kids Alex and Natalie, thank you.
Picture courtesy of Manny Lara