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Manuwa: ‘I’m not an undercard fighter’

TEACHER: Manuwa at his Lion’s Pride MMA gym

WHILE MOST mixed martial artists would jump at the opportunity to fight in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), Jimi Manuwa wants to raise his profile before stepping-up to the major leagues.

The undefeated 28-year-old light-heavyweight has previously turned down contracts to join MMA’s premier organisation as he wants be on the main card rather than a preliminary bout.

And a victory over Antony Rea on December 10 at BAMMA (British Association of Mixed Martial Arts) 8, which is the main event at the Capital FM Arena in Nottingham, will go some way in boosting Manuwa’s credentials.

Explaining his desire to build a fearsome reputation for himself away from the UFC, Manuwa – who has a spotless MMA record of 10 wins (nine K.Os, one submission) – told the Voice of Sport:

“By going on BAMMA they’re going to be giving me international opposition who are top quality, world-class fighters so I’m going to be thrashing all of them on BAMMA and that’ll prove all the doubters wrong.

“Then I’ll go to the UFC after that and go there on a higher level than what they was going to put me when they offered me the contract, I’d have been on the undercard; I’m not an undercard fighter. I want to be on the main card.”

FEARSOME: The 28-year-old lets his fists fly

Manuwa’s last contest was a comfortable first round win against Nick Chapman in October. But prior to that Manuwa had not stepped into octagon for 14 months due to several injuries.

“It was very frustrating,” said the Nigeria-born south Londoner, who goes by the alias of ‘The Poster Boy’.

“I wanted to fight. I got over my major injury that I had late last year then I had another injury because I went back to training too soon so it was very frustrating because I wanted to defend my (Ultimate Challenge Mixed Martial Arts) [UCMMA] title.

“It’s not just the fighting, it’s the training. You get frustrated when you can’t even train.”

The hiatus from octagon action meant that Manuwa could focus on other matters and in June he opened his own gym, Lion’s Pride MMA in Croydon, south London.

“Business wise it’s not that bad,” said Manuwa.

“We could do with more members. It’s winter now so people like to stay indoors but it’s going well. We’ve got our dedicated members who are always there and willing to learn.

“It feels good to be able to pass down what I know to people and seeing them using it and passing down that knowledge is a good feeling.”

When competing in UCMMA, Manuwa defended his belt five times against domestic competition. However - whilst not looking down on the UK scene - Manuwa is relishing the chance to fight higher calibre opposition, starting with Rea.

“I’m fighting Antony Rea next; he’s not a domestic fighter, he’s an international fighter who’s faced a lot of tough opposition. He finishes fights as well. This is the next level now.”

He added: “I’m never in a boring fight. My fights always get finished. Watch my fights and you’ll see why I’m an exciting fighter and that’s why I’m in the main event.”

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