Melvin Manhoef is perhaps the hardest hitting fighter in the entire MMA world, win or lose he always comes out swinging and aged 35 he has no intention whatsoever of altering the style which has brought him 23 KO / TKO wins in his MMA career.
He is preparing for a huge fight against Yoshiyuki Nakanishi at ONE Fighting Championship 'War of the Lions' on Saturday night but the gameplan is going to be the same as it ever was, he is looking to finish the fight in fast and brutal fashion,
"There are people who criticize my ground game and I cannot say that is not true because my ground game is not as good as some other guys who are fighting but my striking is much better. My record is like 24 wins and 23 KOs so I think that I can strike and if I am training striking and other guys are training grappling maybe I should put more time in my ground game but I have been doing it for 12 years and I am still beating people up with striking so why change?"
This attitude might cost Manhoef the occasional fight, although he still wins a lot more than he loses, but it has made him plenty of fans. He has a chance to win a few more at a show this Saturday which will be witnessed by 7,000 people at the Singapore Indoor Stadium and hundreds of thousands more watching around the world on a free internet stream.
Manhoef admits he hasn't seen much footage on his next opponent, Nakanishi, but doesn't believe the Japanese fighter has any intention of staying standing for longer than he has to,
"I couldn’t find a lot of footage on him but I heard he has striking and submissions and is a complete fighter. I don’t know whether he is a south paw or not, I couldn’t find nothing but I am a professional and a fight is a fight. I am prepared for everything .Everybody says they want to stand and trade with me but when the bell goes and they get the first punch or the first kick they think ‘oh shit’ and then immediately try to take me down. I don’t know if this will happen on Saturday but I don’t mind because my takedown defence is proper so he can try."
Manhoef believes that if he can execute his stand up based game plan he will win regardless of what Nakanishi, who is the Deep Light Heavyweight Champion and has an 11-2 MMA record, brings to the table,
"My strategy for Nakanishi is not about Nakanishi, it’s about Melvin Manhoef, if I am in top shape I will perform very well and if I do that people will get a nice fight. We did our homework and I trained hard, we didn’t leave anything to chance. We did everything to win and in my opinion I have to win this fight."
In 35 MMA fights Manhoef has only been the distance once, in a two round fight with Rodney Glundr back in 1999. Nakanishi has a few decision wins and it is probably safe to assume that the longer the fight lasts the less likely it is that the Dutch K-1 veteran will prevail but he says he has no doubts in his endurance,
"I went the distance once so I am sure I could do it again! Although in that fight they had standing eight counts and Rodney Glunder got an eight count and they stopped the fight and then someone threw a table in the ring so he had a chance to recover, otherwise I think I would have knocked him out."
Manhoef regularly fights against heavyweights in both K-1 and MMA and is used to being asked to take on opponents who are 50 lbs heavier than him. He is happy to continue to do this if he has to but is also seriously considering a surprise drop down to 170 lbs,
"I’m gonna try and drop down to 170 lbs because I want to make some more fighters miserable! First we are going to try it and if I feel strong I will do it but I am 94 kgs now so it’s a lot of weight cutting. I always fight at my normal weight which is 88 kgs and even if I am asked to fight heavyweights I still stay at this weight. I can’t make myself taller so if I have to fight against those heavy guys I will do it at 88 kgs."
One heavy guy who Manhoef has already beaten is Mark Hunt who is currently close to contention for a shot at the UFC heavyweight title. He knocked him out in 17 seconds and is hoping to see the New Zealander do well in the Octagon because it makes that win seem all the more impressive,
"Seeing Mark Hunt win fights in the UFC gives me confidence but I am not signed with them I am signed with One FC and if he is champion it will be even better because then we can say One FC has the better fighters! He is fighting Stefan Struve next who is also a cool guy but still it will be great if Mark Hun wins that fight."
Manhoef plans to fight at least three times for ONE FC this year and has also signed a contract with K-1 which will see him fight for them in May. He is happy to fight absolutely anyone although he would very much like one more shot at Remy Bonjasky.
He will not be sporting his trademark leather skirt on Saturday night, not due to sudden change of direction in his fashion sense but because it somehow got lost in transit. Regardless of what he wears you know that Manhoef is going to be throwing strikes with seriously bad intentions and that the chances of this fight making it out of the opening round are extremely slim,
"I forgot my fight skirts so I don’t know what I am going to be wearing, I will have to find something else. It’s not about what I’m wearing, it’s about how I perform. Nakanishi is in for a surprise because has never been in there with anyone who hits as hard as I do, it doesn't matter how hard he has trained, nothing can prepare you for that sort of power."
ONE FC 'War of the Lions' will be streamed completely free of charge on youtube. You can view the event in its entirety on the ONE FC youtube channel here.