Jimi Manuwa: Three years from now I will have the UFC belt (Exclusive Interview)
With eight of his ten victories coming by way of first-round knockout, undefeated Light Heavyweight Jimi Manuwa fights like a man that’s in a hurry. However, when the UFC came calling earlier this year, “The Poster Boy” chose not to rush success. Though the world’s most prominent mixed martial arts organization is where he aspires to be, Manuwa knew it wasn’t the right time. In addition to being fresh off of an injury that kept him sidelined for more than a year, the British slugger had blown through all of his previous opponents, not one of which made it outside of the second-round.
Instead, Manuwa’s search for more challenging opposition has since taken him to the British Association of Mixed Martial Arts, with whom he’s inked an exclusive four-fight contract. Now set to face Antony Rea in his promotional debut, Manuwa will look to continue his dominant streak when he meets the dangerous veteran in the BAMMA 8 headliner this Saturday night in Nottingham. Here’s what “The Poster Boy” had to say about Rea, training at Alliance MMA, and his fighting future:
You’re set to face Antony Rea on December 10th in Nottingham. How is your training and preparation going for the fight?
Training has been going well. I fought recently with Cage Rage in a Light Heavyweight title defense, so I just carried on from the last training camp.
You’ve long trained at Keddles Gym in the U.K., but from what I understand, you were planning to head to California for this camp to put in some work at Alliance MMA. Were you able to make it out there?
I went to Alliance Gym for a bit and had some good sparring and training. I came back to finish off the last of my camp in the UK, but I had some great training there in California.
Alliance is home to some great talents, many of whom compete in your weight class: Phil Davis, Brandon Vera, Alexander Gustafsson, etc. Were you able to work with any of these guys while you were out there?
Yes, I did a lot with Phil Davis and Joey Beltran out there, but there were other great athletes there to lend a hand and help me out as well, like Dominick Cruz and Brandon Vera – although he was injured.
Both you and Rea will be making your BAMMA debut, but are also serving as the main event for the card. Has knowing that you will headline in your first fight with the promotion caused any added pressure?
I don’t think it will add any pressure being the main event. I’m used to being the main event at Cage Rage, so it’s nothing to me. I’m just going to fight my usual fight and do what I do.
Rea took his first professional fight in 1997 and has competed against no less than ten UFC veterans. How do you feel about him as an opponent and is his experience something that concerns you?
He has a lot of experience and I respect that, but at the end of the day he is human and feels pain just like everyone else, so we will get it on in the cage.
Speaking of experience, you were offered a UFC contract, but decided that you needed a few more tough opponents before taking that step. Can you talk a little bit about why you felt it wasn’t the right time for you to move on to the UFC?
I was coming off a long lay-off, so I wanted a few hard fights before I jumped into the big league. I think I made the right decision. I take my career very seriously and plan to be the best in the world, not just another fighter.
Had you signed with the UFC, your first fight was expected to be at UFC 138 in Birmingham, England. Do you know who your opponent would have been?
I wasn’t sure who the opponent would be, but it would have been on the undercard and not shown on TV. That’s not where I want to be.
Ahead of your last fight, you starred in what has since been called a “ground-breaking” MMA documentary on MTV. What was this experience like for you and have you noticed an increase in fan support or media attention since it aired?
It was great taking part in the documentary. It got a lot of good press and a lot of good feedback. It’s always great to get recognised for the hard work we fighters put in.
I know that fighters do not like to look beyond the opponent in front of them, but assuming that all things go as planned, where do you see yourself professionally three-years from now?
Three years from now I will have the UFC belt.
Alright Jimi, nine of your ten wins, and more than half of Rea’s, have come by way of some form of knockout. Is it safe to assume that this one isn’t going the distance on December 10th?
Rea seems to be a tough fighter, but I will finish him when I turn on the heat. As soon as I land my striking on anyone, it’s home time.
On behalf of myself and the staff at LowKick.com, I would like to thank you for taking the time to speak with me. Is there anything that you would like to add or any sponsors that you would like to mention?
I’d like to thank God for blessing me and my family and friends; my family and friends for all the support; my manager Wad and Halo PR; and all my training partners and coaches at my gym Lions Pride MMA.
I’d like to thanks my sponsors Muscle Fitness, Fearless Fightwear and Liquorbox.
Follow me on Twitter at @posterboyjm