It would seem that the athletic prowess and quick adaptability for the cage runs in the Manuwa family. Ben, the lesser known younger brother of the UFC’s KO specialist Jimi has enjoyed a quiet run of success competing at featherweight as a semi professional on the UK circuit.
In just under 18 months Ben Manuwa has amassed 3 straight wins, something which was never his intention when he ventured to his older brother’s Lion’s Pride MMA Gym.
” First of all MMA was to help my football, to improve my cardio and fitness. I suddenly started getting better and half decent and it was Abdul my wrestling coach’s feedback that led me to drop my football aspirations and concentrate on my fighting. Ever since then I’ve just been concentrating on all the different disciplines and getting better.”
An obvious elephant in the room, that I’m assured looms large in all of the interviews he has undertaken thus far, is his older brother and living up to the expectations that people will have of him carrying the name, also representing the gym. In addition to this, his reaction when he learned of the match up with the UFC’s ranked light heavyweight Alexander Gustafsson.
“When I first heard I was blown away, it’s a massive fight for Jimi, when he beats Gustafsson the sky’s the limit it’ll definitely put him in title contention. Jimi has taken the UK by storm remember when he was competing for the UCMMA title people said he wasn’t ready then. I’m very different from my brother I don’t get sick of people having their ideas about me or even about our camp.”
Coming from one of London’s most established fight camps it would appear that even before he steps into the cage his potential opponents are apprehensive once they hear the name as Manuwa is keen to explain.
“I don’t want to sound cocky but I know for a fact people are scared of us. As Lion’s Pride, we have had a lot of people pull out of planned fights with us, we’ve had a lot of people straight up refuse to fight us just because of who we are and what we do. I was supposed to fight this coming weekend but my opponent has pulled out because of an injury”
With the end of 2013 fast approaching and a new year with new goals on the horizon Manuwa, whilst eager to turn professional, is wary about making the jump to soon.
“I would turn pro tomorrow if it was down to me but I listen to my coaches. They think there are areas I need to work on. Hopefully after one or two more semi pro fights I want to turn pro in 2014 and take the division by storm. The UFC is the pinnacle of the sport and right now I look at it like a premiership footballer, I want to lift that world cup obviously not now but one day.”
There’s a quiet confidence to this particular 30 year old, time isn’t necessarily on his side and there is a sense of urgency about progressing his career, however, he’s well on track to achieving where he has set his destination. One thing is for sure he’s in certainly in good hands well capable of helping him on his journey.
(Photo credit: Helen Parish)