Photo by Martin McNeil for SB Nation
Jimi Manuwa turned down the UFC on two separate occasions, but now that he is fighting inside the Octagon, the hard-hitting light heavyweight proved the wait was well worth it, dismantling Kyle Kingsbury in Sept. 2012. As he readies for his sophomore effort against Cyrille Diabate at UFC on FUEL TV 7 this weekend (Feb. 16, 2013), he warns "The Snake" not to exchange leather with him ... or else.
For most mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters, getting to Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is the grand prize at the end of a painful tunnel. And when the Zuffa-owned fight promotion comes calling, most fighters eagerly respond, whether or not they are ready for the big show.
That wasn't the case with current undefeated 12-0 (1-0 UFC) light heavyweight contender Jimi Manuwa who says he turned down offers to fight for the UFC on more than one occasion. Once because he felt it was too early in his career and the other because he didn't feel it was a wise move to join the big boys of the promotion after a long time off because of injury.
"Poster Boy" gave all the patient details on his recent appearance on "The MMA Hour:"
"They had an offer really early in my career. I think I was like 5-0 or 6-0 and I was like, ‘no way, nah, not at all.' The other one, I was just coming off a long injury, I had eight months off with a dislocated shoulder and they offered me a fight at (UFC)138 or something and I was like I don't really want to jump straight into a big fight after a long injury with ring rust or anything like that. I defended my title one more at Ultimate Challenge and I fought at BAMMA one more time and that contract kind of fizzled out so we signed with the UFC after that. For me, it was a big decision, but it was an easy one. I knew I would end up in the UFC because I got confidence in my skills and I knew I would end up there anyway, I just wanted to go to the right path. I didn't want to be one of those fighters who fought once in the UFC and then got thrown out. I want to have a long run in the UFC and do things properly. I don't want to fight for the once or twice and then lose because of lack of experience or skill and then get thrown out."
Once Manuwa found his way to the Octagon, he proved the UFC's interest in him was warranted, dismantling Kyle Kingsbury at UFC on Fuel TV: "Struve vs. Miocic" on Sept. 29, 2012 and breaking "Kingbu's" face in the process.
Manuwa will next take on long-time veteran Cyrille Diabate at this weekend's (Feb. 16, 2013) UFC on FUEL TV 7: "Barao vs. MacDonald" event in London, England. He says a bout against "The Snake" is one that "excites" him; however, he knows Frenchman won't stand with him inside the Wembley Arena.
And if he does, it would be disastrous for the Team Quest-trained fighter:
"Yeah, it excited me. It's a big challenge, he's really experienced, he's been around the block, he's fought in PRIDE, he has been around the block he has fought for a long time, very experienced and he is a great striker. He is not too bad on the floor and his takedowns, he trains with Dan Henderson. I'm expecting a great fight, but, I don't think he is going to stand with me, I don't know. I've trained for every situation, but, I always predict a knockout, you know? To stand with me, I wouldn't. If he stands with me, he is going to come out worse. I've got too much power and explosiveness."
With a win over Diabate, Manuwa says he will gladly take on all challengers Zuffe matchmakers see fit next, but, much like early on his career, he is prepared to take his path under the UFC banner on his terms.
Patience is indeed a virtue.