I met Manny only a few weeks ago in a yoga class. He made a passing comment about not setting limits for himself. He assumes everything is possible and is open to trying new things. Naturally, I wanted to ask him about his friends, his love life, parties and God. Turns out he’s a professional commentator for Bellator MMA on Fox Sports Latin America.
What makes you a good professional commentator?
If you couldn’t be a commentator, what would you want to do?
I have a fascination with the human body and movement. So maybe a physical therapist or chiropractic-type career.
What sports do you do?
I grew up playing soccer and baseball, but I really found myself through martial arts. I’ve trained in jiu-jitsu, kickboxing, boxing, MMA and kali. I still continue to train regularly in jiu-jitsu and kali.
What made you start yoga? What do your family and friends think about you doing yoga?
I dabbled with Bikram Yoga years ago while rehabbing a knee injury. But it was this past summer that I really found myself through yoga and became passionate about my practice. I’d spent so long living with pain caused by years of abusing myself with combat sports and an active nightlife.
For my yoga practice, I’m getting some heat from my guy friends. Not all of them, but some. For all the changes my yoga activities have created. But I’m actually getting some of them to start practicing and most of their significant others are now practicing with me. Or at least thinking about starting to practice.
You mentioned an “active nightlife.” What did that look like for you?
Lots and lots of booze. Mostly gin, tequila, scotch (only the good stuff.) Too often. If I didn’t have a fight scheduled, it was every night. I thought I was rock star (laughs.) Except back then the sport was nothing, not even garage band status. That didn’t stop me from drinking like I was Slash, though.
What is your favorite aspect of yoga philosophy?
The simplicity of it. Living in the present moment is the simplest concept ever, right? But how many of us ever actually do it?
What is your favorite yoga pose and why?
Right now Baddha Hasta Sirsasana because I like the way inverting makes me feel. But my wrists don’t quite like inverting in handstands yet.
What was the most difficult day or event in your life?
I had a very mind-blowing, eye-opening, spirit-altering experience being diagnosed with testicular cancer when I was 24. I was fighting professionally at the time and I just thought I was in pain because of a kick or some other trauma. But it kept getting worse instead of better. They did bloodwork and I had surgery the next day or two days after. I had ol’ lefty removed. They made an incision thru the abdominal wall just below the waistline and removed it and all the attachments. No chemo. I had radiation, then just monitoring. Radiation is like high-frequency x-rays. It didn’t hurt; the only pain I felt was from the surgery incision. Radiation took about a month and made me feel weak, tired and general fatigue. I opted for surveillance after radiation because my blood markers were down. [The whole ordeal] really just put me on a better path, though, and ended up being such a blessing.
What do you think about the idea of God?
I believe in God. I wouldn’t be here if not for his grace. I’m not religious anymore but I do meditate and pray twice a day. I was raised Catholic but I haven’t been to church in almost a year. I went at least once a week when I was a kid. When I was no longer living at home, I stopped going. I saw a lot of ugly stuff in church folk growing up.
I already do all the crazy things I can think of. I don’t have a Bucket List.
You’re single and have never been married. Describe the last time you were in love and how that ended.
Last time I was in love was a couple years ago. It didn’t work out but she and I are still very good friends. I’m open to love and now I feel better prepared to receive and give it. I just want the stuff all the good love song lyrics talk about. I’m a sucker for love. My favorite lyrics are from Stevie Wonder’s “You Are the Sunshine of My Life.” [It says] “You are the sunshine of my life/ That’s why I’ll always stay around./ You are the apple of my eye./ Forever you’ll stay in my heart.”
What qualities do you look for in friends?
I’m very picky about the people I share time and experience life with. Friends have to have passions. They don’t necessarily have to share mine, but they have to be able to relate, to be open-minded and truthful, respectful and loyal. That’s what they’ll get from me.
How does your life differ from what you imagined it would be?
Never in a million years would I have imagined life like this. So, in every way! I always figured I’d be a 9-5 office job/working guy. But it wasn’t in my stars. Maybe in the next life I’ll get to live a boring one.
For more online connection with Manny, follow him on Twitter @manny_mma.