Coming off three straight defeats, Jimi Manuwa understands the narrative that he’s walking into for his upcoming bout at UFC Fight Night in Stockholm, Sweden.
Yet as easy as it might be for Manuwa to look at his record and see a trio of losses staring back at him, the 39-year old British slugger just isn’t all that concerned about criticisms regarding his resume without digging deeper into each of his recent fights.
In particular, Manuwa can look at his last two bouts as shining examples why he’s still a marquee part of the UFC roster despite suffering three losses in a row.
Last March, Manuwa and Jan Blachowicz engaged in a back and forth three round war that resulted in the light heavyweights being rewarded with Fight of the Night honors.
Nine months later, Manuwa went to battle with Thiago Santos in a fight that produced arguably one of the greatest rounds in UFC history as the heavy-handed knockout artists exchanged blows in a blistering performance that had the crowd rising and falling with every strike thrown.
The end result didn’t go Manuwa’s way but he was still proud to put on a show.
That’s part of the reason why Manuwa believes he’s back on a main card again this weekend as he faces up and coming prospect Aleksander Rakic in Sweden despite entering the fight on a losing skid.
“One hundred percent [I always put on a show] and I think the UFC appreciates that,” Manuwa said ahead of his fight. “That’s why even coming off of two or three losses, I’m still high up on the main card. Because they know I’m always guaranteed fireworks.”
Obviously, Manuwa wants to get back in the win column but he’s not adding any undue pressure to his performance that doesn’t already come with every fight he’s had in the UFC.
In his last eight fights alone, Manuwa has faced three former title challengers, with a fourth about to be added when Santos faces Jon Jones in the UFC 239 main event in July. He’s taken on five opponents in his past eight fights who are still occupying spots in the top 10 rankings including a vicious knockout against No. 8 ranked Corey Anderson.
He’s earned four bonuses, including two Fight of the Night and two more Performance of the Night awards.
In fact, during his entire UFC career, Manuwa has gone to a decision only two times and both of those fights came against No. 6 ranked Jan Blachowicz in a pair of fights they have split.
Those kinds of credentials speak for themselves, which is why Manuwa isn’t getting overwrought with emotion that he somehow has to win to save his job.
Instead, Manuwa approaches every fight with a “do-or-die” attitude that has allowed him to earn 15 career knockouts and a UFC career spanning nearly seven years, with plans for plenty more to come.
“I wouldn’t say it’s much more pressure than I put on myself for every fight. Every fight is a must win for me. That’s it,” Manuwa said. “Every fight is a must win for me and I wouldn’t say there’s that much more pressure.
“Obviously, you think about it, but you’ve got to just go in there and fight your best and the UFC knows that I do that every fight, win or lose. They always know that I put on great performances and highlight reel fights.”
In his latest fight, Manuwa draws a rising star in Rakic, who comes into the fight off 11 straight wins, three of those in the UFC, while earning a TKO against Devin Clark in his last outing.
The 27-year old Austrian has injected some new blood into the UFC’s 205-pound division and he would love nothing more than to stake his claim to a top 15 ranking with a win over Manuwa.
As impressive as Rakic has been during his first few fights in the UFC, Manuwa believes this is a massive step up in competition and he’s going to find that out the hard way on Saturday.
“He’s a great all around fighter. To me I look at every fight that I’m fighting as the same. Everyone’s hard, there are no easy fights,” Manuwa said about his opponent. “Every fight is a must win. He’s a good all-around fighter. I can’t see anything that’s that much special about him but he’s a hard fight.
“When I start letting off my arsenal, we’ll see what happens. Listen, I respect every fighter. I don’t do any trash talking or anything. We’re just going to go in there and fight but there’s levels to this game and everything. I’m going to show him the levels and that’s it.”
While Rakic is looking to prove himself against a ranked contender for the first time, Manuwa has been there and done that plenty of times before.
So Manuwa’s goals for this light heavyweight showdown include getting the win, securing another performance bonus and then giving back to the sport by allowing the judges sitting cageside to enjoy a snack or a bathroom break because he promises they won’t be needed.
“I never see a decision coming. I never see anything other than a knockout,” Manuwa said. “I’m always gunning for a knockout.
“The judges can have a night off. It’s not going to decision, ever.”