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Posts Tagged ‘future’

When Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone wages war inside the UFC Octagon, the results are stellar. 

Win or lose, Cowboy fights to finish—to destroy—and his nonstop activity and aggression makes each of his fights a can’t-miss affair. 

Most recently, Cerrone defeated Brazilian striking sensation Edson Barboza via first-round rear-naked choke at UFC on Fox 11, marking Cowboy’s third finish in as many tilts.

Throughout the UFC on Fox 11 affair, Cerrone and Barboza traded strikes, with the Brazilian getting the better of his American foe for the first half of the round. 

Cerrone dropped Barboza with a jab just past the midway point, though, and he pounced on his injured prey, slapping on the choke and ending the fight in dramatic fashion. 

The win was not flawless, but it was certainly effective, and it represented the talent that is Mr. Donald Cerrone. 

He can strike, but he will get beaten to the punch by faster, more aggressive and technical stand-up artists (see: Pettis, Anthony; Barboza, Edson; Diaz, Nate). 

He can grapple, but he can be neutralized by a superior wrestler or Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioner (see: Dos Anjos, Rafael; Henderson, Benson). 

Cerrone is what I would like to term the “gatekeeper of the future.” 

Right now, Cowboy is, in my opinion, better than a gatekeeper in the UFC’s lightweight division. He’s ranked eighth, according to the official UFC rankings, and he’s on a three-fight winning streak, all via finish (and all by distinctly different finishes). 

Like middleweight standout Michael Bisping, however, Cerrone routinely tumbles just as he reaches the top of the 155-pound mountain. 

Cerrone was thoroughly dismantled by Nate Diaz at UFC 141, a fight which he entered on an impressive six-fight winning streak. If he had defeated Diaz, he may have received a lightweight title shot.

He did not, and the title shot evaded him. 

Cerrone did what Cerrone does following that bout, however, and he bounced back, piecing together two impressive wins and again finding himself in a No. 1-contender’s bout against Pettis.

Pettis destroyed Cowboy with a liver kick in Round 1, and Cerrone’s championship dreams were crushed once more. 

Cowyboy’s position as a “gatekeeper of the future” is unique, however, partly due to the depth of the lightweight division and partly due to his well-rounded skill set. 

Think about other UFC gatekeepers such as Roy Nelson, Mark Munoz and Ryan Bader. 

They’re largely one-dimensional with one standout skill and a “solid” base everywhere else.

Nelson has a huge overhand right, but he’s easily defeated by quicker, more technical strikers.

Munoz has a strong wrestling base and big power, but he’s chinny, and his stand-up attack lacks variety.

Ditto for Bader.

Cerrone, though, is truly fantastic everywhere. Is he a better striker or grappler?

His record shows 15 wins via submission and three via knockout, but many of his submissions were set up by a strike which rocked his opponent and left a clear opening for a choke.

His cardio is great. His camp at Jackson-Winkeljohn MMA is elite, perhaps the best in the business.

He possesses the heart and killer instinct necessary to compete at the highest level.

And yet…

Cerrone just isn’t championship material. Something isn’t there, be it mentally or physically. He’s proven that throughout his UFC career, and it’s a trend that will likely continue as the division continues to evolve. 

As the sport of MMA continues to grow, so too will its fighters and their skill sets. Champions now would obliterate champions of 2005, and we often hear about the “new breed” of fighter who trained MMA rather than a specific discipline from day one.

The sport changes. 

So it goes. 

It only makes sense that gatekeepers will become better and better as this change occurs too, and right now the gatekeeper of the future resides in the UFC’s lightweight division, and he goes by the name of “Cowboy.” 

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Holly Holm spent the first 17 years of her life in Bosque Farms.

It is not a town or a city. It is not much of anything except a four-square mile collection of ranches and farms. It was once a settlement for Dust Bowl refugees. Even today, it doesn’t take an active imagination to see some truth in this.

Holm‘s family moved to Bosque Farms when she was in the womb. Her father is a preacher, which would someday give Holm her fighting nickname.

Her childhood was the middle-class kind. There were few Sundays spent huddled around the television watching football. Instead, Holm‘s family would take day-long bike rides together or jump on their trampoline. It was the start of a life spent pursuing athletic endeavors.

She played soccer for Manzano Heights High School. She’d grown up swimming each summer but realized in high school that she disliked the loneliness of the pool.

“You’re in the water, and stroke after stroke, you’re just staring at that black line on the bottom of the pool,” Holm says. “It gets old. For me it did, anyway. For practice, you’re there for three hours. Three hours of staring at a black line is too much.”

Her brothers wrestled, and she spent afternoons hanging around the practice room. After wrestling was over, there would be aerobics classes, led by a local trainer named Mike Winkeljohn. Holm thought the aerobics classes looked interesting; they were something she could do to stay in shape.

Which is how she found herself taking the aerobics classes that would change her life and give her a profession.

After the classes concluded, Winkeljohn would lead sparring classes.

“I would watch them sparring, and I thought it looked fun,” Holm says. “I wanted to try it. I’m just lucky that Mr. Winkeljohn‘s gym is the one I walked into. I didn’t have to go out and find a great trainer. I just walked in there to the best trainer in the world.”

Holm still refers to Winkeljohn as “Mr. Winkeljohn.” This habit stems from her earliest days at his traditional kickboxing school. You bowed to your opponent before you started sparring. You bowed after you finished. You always treated your coach with the utmost respect.

“It’s like when you have a teacher in high school. Even when you leave, you still refer to them as Mr. or Mrs.,” Holm says. “I don’t think I have ever called him Mike. People will say, ‘How’s Mike,’ and I’m like, ‘Who is Mike?’

“But if you say ‘Wink’ or ‘Mr. Winkeljohn,’ I get it.”

After a few months of training, she told Winkeljohn she wanted to try her hand at fighting.

“Keep coming in and sparring, and I’ll let you know if something comes up,” Winkeljohn told her.

“I wanted him to tell me when I was ready,” she says. “And he did.”

One day, Winkeljohn told Holm there were some amateur fights coming up and a spot that might work for her. It was against an Arizona state kickboxing champion, no easy task for a first experience in the ring. The fight was a “demo,” which is another word for a sparring session with a bit more intensity.

Holm outweighed her opponent by 20 pounds. But given her lack of experience, Winkeljohn figured the bout was even. In the car on the way to the event, Winkeljohn shared a bit of advice.

“They will tell you not to hit hard since it’s a demo,” he said. “I don’t care what they say. I want you to hit as hard as you can, and I want you to go as hard as you can.”

In an experience that would replay throughout her career, Holm followed her coach’s advice to the letter. She hit hard and threw with every bit of force she could muster. Twenty seconds after the fight started, her opponent’s corner threw in the towel.

It’s supposed to be a demo, they said. Holm was going too hard.

Holm went back to her corner.

“Good job,” Winkeljohn said with a smile.


Holm did well enough as an amateur that she turned professional at 20. She was attending college at the time but found it difficult to balance work, school and training. She made $500 for her first professional fight, but that only paid one month’s rent. She needed income but enjoyed fighting enough that she wanted to give it her best effort.

And so she dropped out of school to focus on fighting. She hasn’t looked back since.

“I can go to school when I’m 40, but I can’t fight when I’m 40,” she says. “So I said I’m going to give it a go and see what happens for a year. And that was it.”

Holm elected to pursue a professional boxing career. Her debut was on January 25, 2002. As she’d never boxed as an amateur, her first pro boxing fight was her first boxing match, period. As a kickboxer, her kicking game was her specialty. But matchmakers were having a tough time finding a kickboxing opponent for her, so they asked if she wanted to try boxing.

“OK, we can do that,” Holm said.

The fight took place at the Isleta Casino and Resort in Albuquerque, N.M. It was a success, with Holm knocking Martha Deitchman out in the third round.

Over the next 11 years, Holm would go on to compile a career boxing record of 33-2-3, becoming one of the best female boxers in the world. She would face Christy Martin, who was then considered the most famous female boxer in the world.

Martin had more than 50 fights on her record at that point; Holm had 12. Martin had competed on a Mike Tyson undercard.

Holm? She’d fought near Albuquerque, mostly.

Martin was a huge task for Holm, and she was a significant underdog.

“They were good at always challenging me, and I trusted them,” Holm says. “But it was the most nerve-wracking thing I’d experienced to that date.”

Holm scored a unanimous-decision win over Martin. Mentally exhausted afterward, she sat in the locker room and cried. She’d had big moments in fighting, but none compared to the feeling she’d just experienced. She learned that she could face adversity and overcome.

“It ended up not even being my hardest fight,” she says. “But it was the best feeling in the world.”


As 2011 rolled around, Holm looked for new challenges.

For a decade, she’d trained at one of the best mixed martial arts gyms in the world, sparring with MMA fighters like Julie Kedzie.

Though she’d never trained grappling, she’d been around others who did. When Kedzie or another female fighter was preparing to fight a striker, Holm was asked to help her prepare. Even though she knew nothing of the grappling game, she was willing to give it her best shot.

“I would tell them I didn’t know what I was doing, but I would try if it’s going to help her out,” Holm says. “And then I would have a lot of fun doing it. After a while, I started thinking that I wanted to try an MMA fight.”

One day, Holm was preparing for an upcoming boxing match. She decided to voice her interest to Winkeljohn, and her coach loved the idea.

“He was like, ‘Here’s what I’m thinking, Holly. We’ll go here, and you’ll be here before you know it. You can beat so and so and then fight so and so,’” Holm remembers. “I said, ‘Oh, you’ve been thinking about this, too?’ He never wanted to say anything, though. He wanted it to be my decision.”

The pair began working on wrestling and grappling.

“I was kicking myself in the butt for not learning along the way,” she says. “It was right at my fingertips for all these years. I could have been learning. But then, if I was doing that, maybe I wouldn’t have done so well in boxing.”

Much like her boxing career, her first two professional mixed martial arts bouts were in Albuquerque. She stopped Christina Domke with leg kicks in the first round of her March 4, 2011 debut. Next, she scored a win over durable veteran Jan Finney.

She set a goal for herself: to become the first woman to hold championships in boxing and mixed martial arts.

She continued in both sports, alternating fights between both. She suffered a brutal boxing knockout to Anne Sophie Mathis late in 2011 and knew immediately that she would have a rematch. Holm focused only on boxing after that and defeated Mathis in the rematch in June 2012. She took no MMA fights that year but did beat Diana Prazak in a boxing match in December.

In 2013, Holm prepared for another boxing match, but her projected opponent elected to fight someone else. Holm decided, at that moment, that she wanted to focus on MMA.

There was interest from several promotions, but Bellator was coming to Rio Rancho, N.M. in February and wanted her on the card. She agreed to a deal with the promotion and defeated Katie Merrill by knockout in the second round.

After the fight, Holm met manager Lenny Fresquez in the locker room. He told Holm she had a boxing fight scheduled for May; he didn’t want to tell her before the Bellator fight to avoid ruining her concentration. What Holm wanted was time off, but she agreed to the fight and went back to the gym.

While preparing for the fight, she came to a realization: She was no longer motivated in preparing for boxing matches. She shared her concern with Winkeljohn, saying that she wanted to come in the gym and grapple and learn mixed martial arts.

“I told myself when I began that if I had the passion for it, everything would fall into place. Money, opportunity, sponsorships. Those all come when you’re doing well, and you do well when you’re passionate about it,” she says. “If I’m not feeling that, I need to listen to my heart.”

She went through with the boxing match because she’d already signed a contract. Her motivation was that she didn’t want to leave boxing on a loss. She beat Mary McGee to close her boxing career with a win.

Holm is still asked if she’ll return to boxing. The answer is a resounding no.

“I don’t miss it. As far as training, MMA is fun and new and different. For 12 years I boxed professionally, but then I was done,” she says. “I needed a spark. I’m not done fighting, but I just lost the passion to go in and box. And that was it. I moved on.”


Holm compiled a 6-0 record in mixed martial arts, becoming one of the hottest prospects in the world. With Ronda Rousey‘s rise to fame in the UFC—and her undefeated record—fans around the world have clamored for the UFC to sign Holm. Rousey has been mostly unchallenged in mixed martial arts but has never faced a striker of Holm‘s caliber.

During the week of UFC 171, Fresquez met with UFC officials to discuss a contract. Holm is currently signed with Legacy Fighting, but her deal is structured so that she can leave for the UFC.

But a deal was not reached, and Dana White then announced that he was no longer interested in signing Holm. This is a negotiation tactic from the UFC president, who often determines that louder and more public means better.

“We do want to fight Ronda within a certain amount of fights. And we do want a certain amount of money for that,” Holm says. “If I’m not going to be paid, I might as well fight where I’m at. “

She does not like to discuss money, preferring that Fresquez handle that end of her career. It worked out well, then, that UFC officials asked Holm not to attend the meeting.

She had a family reunion the same weekend, with ample opportunity to consume Irish staples like corned beef hash. But mostly she just does not enjoy situations where she will be asked to put a price on her talents.

“It makes me feel very cocky, and I’m not cocky at all. I don’t want to say, ‘I’m worth this much.’ But it is a career with a small window, and you want to take advantage of the opportunity,” Holm says. “If it really was just me, I would say, ‘Oh sure, I’ll do it for free.’ I wouldn’t be able to say, “I’m worth this much.’ I would be terrible at managing myself.”

Despite their current negotiating standstill, it is not hard to imagine a day when Holm is finally under the UFC banner. Money talks, after all. Though the UFC may have balked at her asking price the first time around, the two sides are likely to come to a deal at some point.

And when they do come to a deal, the speculation will begin anew: What might happen when Holm steps in the Octagon with Rousey? Will Holm‘s striking be too much to handle? Or will Rousey toss her around and submit her, like she has done to all but one opponent during her professional and amateur career?

“I still get armbarred in practice, so I’m not going to say it can’t happen. I think a lot of people only focus on the armbar. But to get the armbar, you have to get the setup. You have to get there,” Holm says. “She’s good with judo. And the thing is, it’s second nature to her. You give her two seconds to think in the clinch, you’ll probably be on your back.”

Holm says that Rousey‘s mental strength may be her greatest weapon of all.

“She believes in herself, and she believes she can beat everybody she gets in there with,” Holm says. “I think a lot of girls get in there not really believing they can do it. They get in there thinking they’re going to give it their best shot, but they don’t really think they can do it.

“That’s where a lot of them have gone wrong. Everybody knows about the armbar, but she still gets it. They know it’s coming, and she still does it. She is amazing at it. But everybody is beatable.”

Brandon Gibson, the striking coach at Jackson/Winkeljohn, says that Holm has the tools to beat Rousey.

“Not only is she an amazingly gifted physical athlete, but she takes a cerebral strategic approach to every element of MMA. She’s been able to pick up moves quickly,” Gibson says. “She’s been working wrestling with Izzy Martinez and does grappling with Ricky Lundell. But the bigger thing is that she’s been boxing out of an MMA school. She’s always been aware of it, and that means she’s going to learn it that much faster.

“She became a dominant boxing champion while working out of an MMA gym. When Holly becomes an MMA champion, that’s going to be much more suited to the skill set she has.”

Holm concedes that she would not relish the idea of fighting Rousey immediately. She has only been training grappling for a short time, after all. Ideally, she would like more time to prepare for taking on such a world-class challenge.

“I have a lot to learn. But I’ll never say no to a fight,” she says. “So if it came soon, I’ll get ready for it.”


And so she continues learning on the job. She’s preparing for a bout with Juliana Werner on Friday night, and then perhaps a future that might include a fight with Rousey.

Is she ready for Werner? Can she hang with Rousey?

“The truth is, I’m not ready. I still have training. I’m not even ready the week of the fight. I have to make weight. I have to go through the mental part,” Holm says. “I’ll be ready when I’m warming up in the locker room.

“That’s when I’m ready.”

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The 20 Greatest Wrestling Matches Between Future MMA Stars, Part VIII: 4 & 3
Bloody Elbow
Before they obtained fame in mixed martial arts, many great fighters competed in amateur wrestling. Sometimes, amateur wrestling matches have even featured two future prize fight combatants. Bloody Elbow wrestling specialist Mike Riordan ranks the 20 …

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The World Series of Fighting is setting a new standard for the way MMA fans across the globe consume their events online. 

In a recent press release, the organization announced that WSOF 9—and all future events—will be streamed for free internationally on

There will be no validation for a television subscription to NBC Sports; users will simply select whether they are international or U.S. viewers, and the card will be open for their enjoyment, according to WSOF publicist Danny Brener. 

In addition, Brener told Bleacher Report via text message that, while the vast majority of the card will be seen online, the first two bouts of the night will not be available for streaming. That means that bouts Nos. 3 through 11 will be shown, which includes the co-main and main events. 

This is huge news for us, as well as for our fans in the U.S. as well all around the world, World Series of Fighting President Ray Sefo said. I am constantly receiving emails and tweets from fans who are eager to be able to watch our fights, and I’m so proud to finally offer them this opportunity. It’s been my mission since day one to have these amazing fights playing in homes all around the world, and this is a massive step in that direction!

World Series of Fighting 9 will be the first card to test this new means of consumption, and the WSOF brass assembled a nice slate of fights for its inaugural run. 

The welterweight championship will be on the line, as champion Steve Carl faces ex-UFC fighter Rousimar Palhares in the night’s main event. 

In addition, Marlon Moraes will battle Josh Rettinghouse for the inaugural WSOF bantamweight championship, and ex-UFC middleweight Yushin Okami makes his promotional debut against Svetlozar Savov. 

The event takes place March 29 at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, and the stream will begin at on at 7 p.m. EST. 

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Having lost comfortably to Myles Jury at UFC 171, the question facing Diego Sanchez is where should he go next?

Stick around in any sport for long enough and the competition will eventually surpass you. This fact is so well established that one might as well categorize it as law.

Has Sanchez really reached that point in his career? It’s difficult to say.

Unlike many fighters who compete past their primes, the original winner of The Ultimate Fighter remains somewhat competitive. His chin appears no less robust, his passion remains undiminished and his body continues to serve him relatively well.

However, it would be delusional to think that Sanchez can still challenge the sport’s elite. Should he be content to function as a gatekeeper for the younger generation?

The fan in me would love nothing more than to watch the former “Nightmare” compete in a series of barnburners for the next several years, yet my conscience leads me elsewhere. I have no desire to see any fighter reduced to a figurative punching bag for my entertainment.

I have no doubt some will argue that Sanchez is still good enough to hang around just outside of the lightweight division’s top 10, and I’m inclined to agree with them.

But how long do we expect that to last? One or two more years? It’s impossible to say, but I’m not entirely sure that it actually matters.

Must a fighter’s decline become glaringly obvious before our thoughts turn towards retirement? It has always struck me as odd that the cumulative effects of repeated concussions must manifest as an unconscious heap in the middle of the cage before health becomes our primary concern.

We know enough about brain injury to realise that its deficits may go unseen for years, remaining latent while damage continues to accumulate. If you haven’t already, I would recommend setting aside half an hour to read Scott Harris’ piece on the subject.

Even as I write this, it’s hard not to experience a certain amount of discomfort when speculating about the health of a fighter who isn’t in the midst of a serious career decline. That’s part of the problem, though.

It is taboo to even hint at retirement unless the fighter in question has been knocked out repeatedly in recent fights. Preventing the fighter from actually deteriorating to that point should be our priority.

In the case of Diego Sanchez, we must also consider his style of fighting. Throughout his career, the 32-year-old has habitually engaged in precisely the kind of career-shortening contests that lead to serious conditions like chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

It would be easy to brush off such concerns, particularly with Sanchez blaming a bout of food poisoning for his performance at UFC 171.

However, I saw no real indication that he was struggling physically against Jury. What I saw was a fighter past his prime being outclassed by a talented young prospect.

Ultimately the question of when to retire lies with the fighter. We can respect that while discussing the issue of fighter safety honestly.

Sanchez may very well be able to compete safely and justify his spot on the roster, but that shouldn’t prevent us from questioning the wisdom of that choice.

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Hector Lombard matches up favorably with each and every welterweight in the UFC’s stacked 170-pound division. 

“Lightning” Lombard rode into the UFC in July 2012 as one of the most feared middleweights on the planet. 

He was knocking dudes out—ferociously—inside the Bellator cage, and he was 31-2-2 in professional MMA action. 

He had never been finished, but he finished 24 opponents in 31 wins. 

He was a savage. 

And he totally flopped inside the Octagon. 

After a disappointing 1-2 stint to begin his UFC career, Lombard’s stock plummeted like the Cincinnati Bengals’ record in January (have they ever even won a game in January?). 

At middleweight, the former Bellator champion was outsized, outmuscled and out-grappled. He looked terrible. 

At a stocky 5’9″, Lombard soon realized that his frame was better suited for a lighter weight class, however, and his dominance was restored after a drop to welterweight. 

He knocked out Nate Marquardt at UFC 166 in just under two minutes, then he dismantled Jake Shields for 15 minutes at UFC 171

In these two victories, we saw the greatness that is Lombard’s full potential. 

On one hand, he possesses game-changing, scary knockout power. That’s never going away. He can put any welterweight away with one flick of the hips, and that’s an X-factor that can alter a fight in a flash. 

We knew that, though. 

What’s more impressive after Lombard’s recent victory over Shields is the resurgent welterweight’s grappling prowess. 

Nobody rag-dolls Jake Shields. 

Shields had lost twice in the UFC before facing Lombard, but these slip-ups were never because he could not stay upright, and they were not for a lack of grappling skills. 

Georges St-Pierre—long known as the division’s (and possibly MMA’s) best wrestleronly landed two takedowns against Shields. 

More recently, Demian Maia—one of the UFC’s best grapplers in any divisiongave up dominant positions on the ground to Shields time and time again. Shields passed Maia’s guard five times during their UFC Fight Night 29 encounter. 

People don’t just do that to Mr. Maia. 

This is why Lombard’s five takedowns and 100 percent takedown success rate were so impressive. 

He did not simply win the grappling battle against Shields; he dominated it. 

If Lombard is out-grappling guys like Jake Shields, he’s a terrifying force in the division who commands respect from the bout’s onset. 

His power is well-documented, and it is horrifying. 

His grappling is still evolving, and he is literally throwing elite grapplers like Jake Shields around the Octagon. 

Yes, he can compete with the welterweight division’s elite, and, yes, he can become the champion in the near future. The skill set is there, and he’s finding his groove of late. 

UFC welterweight contenders, put your phones on silent and place them in your back pocket. 

UFC matchmaker Joe Silva might come calling, and he just might want you to fight Hector Lombard. 

You don’t want that, do you?

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UFC light heavyweight standout Jimi Manuwa steps into the UFC Octagon March 8 at UFC Fight Night 37 to face Alexander Gustafsson in what is the most high-profile fight of his life.

But the British powerhouse has already won his greatest battle. 

A troubled childhood left Manuwa directionless, a renegade born through the struggles that life sometimes unkindly tosses our way. Regularly fighting and defying the law, Manuwa eventually found himself locked up in prison in 2002 for conspiracy to burgle

He was released in 2003, and he soon after found MMA, a sport which gave him hope, a goal and, unbeknownst to him at the time, a productive, limitless future. 

“MMA has improved my life leaps and bounds,” Manuwa told Bleacher Report. “As soon as I found MMA, I knew that this is what I wanted to do, and it gave me focus because I was good at it anyway, and it gave me a goal to reach. I kept winning my fights, and it’s given me a goal and a career opportunity. I am who I am today, and who knows what could have happened if I didn’t find MMA.” 

As an undefeated professional fighter boasting a 14-0 record with all 14 wins coming inside the distance, Manuwa has developed a reputation as one of the most feared finishers in all of MMA. Taking on the No. 1-ranked light heavyweight in the world at UFC Fight Night 37, Manuwa feels little pressure, and he knows that his past has prepared him for this crucial moment in his life. 

“I don’t think there’s anyone who strikes like me in the world,” Manuwa said. “I’ve seen a few of his [Gustafsson's] fights and everything, but I don’t really study him…I was a fan of Alex before I had to fight him, but his skills have no bearing on what I think is going to happen Saturday.” 

Compounding the pressures of taking one of the world’s top 205-pound combatants, Manuwa finds himself fighting in the main event slot at London’s O2 Arena at UFC Fight Night 37, a prestigious setting for one of the most acclaimed British fighters in the sport. 

Still, Manuwa sees this stage as an opportunity, not a concern. 

“I’ve got a good skill at blocking things out and concentrating and everything, so I won’t feel any additional pressure,” Manuwa said. “It makes no difference. I’ve just got to fight and get the win, and all I’m aiming for is the title. That’s all I’m aiming for, so I don’t care where I fight or who I fight. What I’m aiming for is the title.” 

As Manuwa continues his journey toward the top of the UFC’s 205-pound ranks, he is reminded of his past, of the hardships and the mistakes. 

After opening Lion’s Pride MMA two and a half years ago, Manuwa is taking this past and turning all the negativity it contains into lessons, learning and positive futures—like his ownfor the area’s youth. 

He’s righting wrongs, and, as he has in his UFC career, he’s finding success doing so. 

“I invite them (children, troubled teens) down to the gym, and we got kids’ classes and teenage classes, after-school classes, and now we have disabled kids,” Manuwa said. “It’s just about giving back and trying to not make them make the same mistakes that I did when I was their age. I wish I had started when I was younger. I didn’t. Now it’s time to give back and give some of these kids something to do when they’re teenagers.” 

Maunwa’s life course culminates March 8 at UFC Fight Night 37 as he steps into the Octagon to face Gustafsson in the night’s main event. Beyond this fight, he sees mountains ahead, but he’s ready. He’s already overcome so much, and he’s prepared to continue the trend. 

“When I beat Alex, I’m going to have to fight someone else, whether it be Jon Jones, whether it be [Glover] Teixeira, [Daniel] Cormier, whoever,” Manuwa said. “I feel that I’m ready to take on the best in the world, and I’ll be doing that Saturday night.” 

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