Los Angeles, Calif.--Melvin Manhoef is lounging on one of the couches inside the Sheraton Gateway Hotel awaiting his turn to speak with Ron Kruck and Duke Roufus for the standard television pre-production fighter interviews for the GLORY: "Last Man Standing" pay-per-view (PPV) event, which takes place on Saturday night (June 21, 2014) at The Forum; the historic and newly-renovated arena in Inglewood.
Affixed on the wall behind him is a picture of great white shark.
It's a fitting juxtaposition since the Dutch-Surinamese fighter was once very much considered an apex predator in the ocean of combat sports due to his ability to end fights with one punch, like the rows of serrated teeth inside the jaws of a shark end lives with one bite.
Now 38 years old, Manhoef has amassed 65 victories over his near 20-year career. 53 of those wins have come by way of knockout. As a kickboxer, he's had his hand raised 37 times and knocked out 27 of his opponents.
No stranger to being on the big stage, the veteran fighter from the Netherlands has fought for almost every major promotion at one point or another, including: K-1, Strikeforce, DREAM, It's Showtime, Heroes, ONE FC, and Dynamite, among others. When Mahoef comes up in conversation, someone usually mentions his famous knockout over Mark Hunt on New Year's Eve back in 2008.
Manhoef's last big fight (in the U.S.) was a submission loss to Tim Kennedy in Strikeforce over three years ago. In his last kickboxing match, he lost to Zabit Samedov in the semifinal round of a four-man tournament at Legends 2 in Moscow on November 9, 2013.
Now he will be returning to the big stage, this time with the biggest kickboxing promotion on the planet, to fight in GLORY: "Last Man Standing," the one night, eight-man tournament that features some of the best middleweights in the world.
"For me it's an honor to be in the tournament," said Manhoef, who will face Filip Verlinden in the opening round. "It's going to be one of the best tournaments in the world."
"I may be a veteran, but still they want me in the final eight with the best fighters from all over the world. They see that I'm a pretty damn good fighter and I appreciate that and I'm thankful for that. The only thing I can do is give it all and I'm going to give it all."
"No Mercy" will definitely not be considered a favorite to win it all on Saturday at "Last Man Standing." Some point to the fact that if he gets past Verlinden, he has to fight the winner of No. 1-ranked Artem Levin vs. Alex Pereira in a potential semifinal match up. Others say his aggressive style will be too much to carry through three fights and he will be too banged up, and many doubters simply point to his age.
"But, I'm young. I'm still young," argued Manhoef. "I'm a veteran, and my body and my spirit and everything... My fighting spirit is very, very solid and still wants to go. I think it's a matter of how you present yourself and if my fans, who believe in me, and my coaches and my team believe in me, I will keep on going. I promise you one thing: I will deliver on June 21 at 'Last Man Standing.'"
This will be the first time Manhoef will compete in an eight-man tournament. He said he's prepared for "all seven opponents" and not just Verlinden, and as far as his strategy goes, the Mike's Gym fighter said he is going to bring that attacking style that is an inherent trait of the fighters who train there.
"No surprises, no surprises," says Manhoef. "We are going to go all in. The first fight we are going to go all in. The second fight we are going to go all in and the third fight we are going to go all in. I'm prepared to fight 12 rounds, so it doesn't matter. My running coach, my boxing coach, my strength and conditioning coach, my whole team... I did everything of what we had to do. I did my homework and if I can keep the focus and do my assignment, what I have to do, everybody has to watch out. I can fight with one punch or one kick."
Manhoef can see several different ways that he can win it all on Saturday, but he believes he will win "no matter what," and also claimed he has rediscovered the "fountain of youth" and when he enters the ring, he will do what Maximus said he would do in Gladiator: win the crowd.
"I'm going to win the tournament if it's going to be on three knockouts -- that's the dream scenario of course -- or if I'm going to do it on two knockouts, or one knockout, or everything on points," he said. "It doesn't matter. Eventually, the goal matters and I'm going to keep my focus still. Three fights, this is my focus."
"I'm blessed," he continued. "I'm thankful that I can do it at my 38 and I'm going to show you a surprise. Maybe in the first round I seem like 38, but the second round I'm 28 and the third round I'm 18. It's going to be like this. I'm very blessed with everything. I'm thankful with my team. I'm thankful with all the people that surround me and my family who helps me a lot. I'm blessed and I'm gifted also. If I can show my gifts of things that I've got from God, I will conquer the fans in America and I think my fight style is pretty okay for the fans in America."