RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil — Jimi Manuwa and Thiago Santos will meet in the main event of UFC Sao Paulo on Sept. 22, but that was not the original plan for the Fight Night card.
Manuwa was matched-up against Glover Teixeira previously, but a shoulder injury forced the Brazilian off the card. With not many options available to replace him, the promotion went with Santos as a plan B — but the idea didn’t interest Manuwa right away.
It was only after some time that Manuwa agreed to take the fight against “Marreta” in Sao Paulo.
“I didn’t see any incentive in taking the fight because it was coming from a middleweight,” Manuwa said. “I wanted a good name, so I wasn’t really interested in fighting, but then the UFC persuaded me to take the fight. I had a little think about it, and Thiago Santos is a good fighter, so I accepted the fight.”
The top-ranked light heavyweight says money wasn’t the deciding factor in his decision.
“Sometimes you want to step up and … not do favors, but you’ve gotta tell me incentives to take the fight,” Manuwa said. “They explained to me, I had a talk with my coaches and my team and we accepted the fight.
“Everyone else didn’t make sense,” Manuwa added when asked if Santos was the only name offered. “Everyone that was worth fighting already was matched up. It was very hard in the light heavyweight division because people were fighting or injured or unranked.
“The UFC knows they have to put a good event, a good opponent for me when I’m fighting because they know I’ll always put on a good show, I always come for the knockout. We’re going to put on a great main event for Sao Paulo. I look forward to coming there.”
Looking to rebound from losses to Volkan Oezdemir and Jan Blachowicz, Manuwa expects to “collect a lot of Brazilian fans” in Sao Paulo. He doesn’t expect a win to make a difference in the light heavyweight title picture, “but it’s gonna maintain my position in No. 7 in the light heavyweight division,” he said.
The 17-4 light heavyweight contender, who has finished five of his six UFC wins via knockout, predicts the UFC Sao Paulo main event won’t “go past the round two,” but nonetheless sees Santos as a good opponent.
“Every fighter in the UFC is good, I don’t underrate any fighter. I’m training very hard,” Manuwa said. “I see he’s a good fighter, was a big middleweight, so coming up to light heavyweight shouldn’t be a problem for him. I look forward to the challenge. I always look forward to the challenge.
“I look forward to coming to Brazil. I love Brazil, I’ve always wanted to come to Brazil, and I’m coming to collect some new Brazilian fans because I know Brazilians love a good fight, they love a good knockout, and that’s what I’m coming to give them.”
Uninterested in getting re-booked against Teixeira now that the Brazilian is ranked below him, Manuwa is still unsure what will happen with the 205-pound title next.
Two-division champion Daniel Cormier insists he will move back to light heavyweight for one last title defense, and Manuwa believes he will “do the right thing” one way or the other.
“Cormier is a good champion,” Manuwa said, “and I believe he’s got integrity and I believe he will do the right thing when it comes to the light heavyweight division. I think he will either defend it or vacate it.”