An interview with UFC Light heavy weight contender Jimi Manuwa
Interview: Jimi Manuwa the Nigerian-English mixed martial artist, who competes in the Light Heavyweight division of the UFC
Earliest sporting memory? My earliest sporting memory is probably going judo when I was about 6 or 7 years old. My dad and my brother did it for a couple of years when I was young, in Nigeria.
Were you formidable at it ‘the gentle way’? I was always athletic. I remember doing really high jumps over people and stuff like that, so… yeah.
Jumped over them, took them down, beat them up? Not quite. But it was just training. I was only about 6 or 7 at the time.
What about seeing a big sporting event for the first time? Can you remember one? I don’t think I went to any live events until I went to my friend’s fight at Cage Rage and that had so much of an impact on me, that I started to fight myself.
Which other sports do you watch? I like watching athletics and I like watching boxing. Probably the sprints, I like watching sprinting.
Can you sprint? Yeah I sprinted a little bit in school for I think it was Wimbledon Harriers. I was selected to compete for their team and I did long distance running as well when I was in school.
What’s the toughest part of your sporting life today? Probably getting up in the morning to train, that’s tough for me… (laughs) but I’ve got a lot of focus and ambition.
Do you prefer training in the evening? It makes sense to me and I prefer training and fighting and doing everything at night time.
What’s been the low point in your career so far? I got injured and I was off for 14 months. I think it was 2010 or 2011 when I got injured. I dislocated my shoulder and I thought I wouldn’t be able to fight again. I think I was 6-0 or 7-0 at the time and I thought I wouldn’t be able to fight any more so that was a pretty low moment in my career.
Did the world feel like it was caving in on you? Not quite. I just thought of it as bad luck and it was a freak accident how it happened. But at the back of my mind I knew I’d be back at it again and I just got well, did my rehab and started training again.
How did it happen? I was doing a technique during sparring and I think I went for a sweep against my opponent and he based himself on my shoulder and it popped out. I knew I’d done something bad at the time and it’s not something that usually happens to me, so I thought ‘Oh my God’ and I went to hospital and they told me what happened.
It came out and went back in and I ripped one of my muscles so it was really painful. It was part of my pectoral muscle that I ripped. I ripped my other pectoral muscle before I started fighting so I knew the feeling. I knew I’d ripped a muscle but I didn’t actually know what had happened…
Do you deal with adversity well? Yeah I think I do. I’m the type of person to shut my shoulders and say it is what it is, deal with it. I don’t dwell on things.
What did you learn about yourself? I learnt that I’m strong minded but I also learnt maturity. I think it’s helped me in my life to learn to deal with stuff and it’s made me the person that I am today.
Have you changed a lot then? Yeah definitely. I think everyone changes as you get older, you know what way in life you go, some people go this way some go the other way so I think I’ve gone in the right direction.
What are you squeezing there? It’s just a hand exercise ball.
Is that for your thumb? Yeah. And I’ve kind of got attached to it so it comes with me.
Is the thumb healed now? Yeah it’s fully healed now and I’ll be using it in my fight.
Who do you admire in MMA? I’m a big fan of Anderson Silva. I like exciting fighters – Anthony Pettis, Jose Aldo. I like all the great fighters, Cain Velasquez, all the champions. They’re so good at what they do. I just admire people who are good at what they do and people you can watch and learn from.
How disappointed were you for Anderson Silva when he broke his leg? I was kind of distraught when I saw it, it ruined the whole thing. It was terrible to see a fellow fighter in so much pain. In the first round, I think he was just getting warmed up. He did the same thing with Chael Sonnen so I think he was just getting loose, then that happened. It was sad to see.
Will he come back? You know what, I don’t know. I don’t know if I’d like to see him come back either, I’d like to see him come back and win but back from that injury I don’t know. If he doesn’t, he will have left a great legacy and record.
So if Anderson could get fit and come back and win you’d love to see that because you admire his style? Yeah 100 per cent. I think anyone would be stupid to say they don’t want to see him fight again but it might mess with his mental game because kicking is one of his main weapons. It could mess with his mental game. But if he did fight again he is the greatest that ever did it.
Jimi Manuwa headlines against Alex Gustafsson at the UFC: Fight Night London at the 02 Arena, Greenwich, on March 8. Tickets go on sale on Friday, Jan 31. Details at UFC.com