Jimi Manuwa is coming off a KO victory over Corey Anderson at UFC Fight Night: London.
UFC light heavyweight Jimi Manuwa initially had no plans to visit Buffalo, New York, this year.
Manuwa (17-2), of London, was scheduled to fly to Las Vegas this month for a sit-down meeting with UFC president Dana White. Vegas was supposed to be his one and only destination.
When Manuwa learned that Jon Jones was going to attend a UFC 210 title fight between Daniel Cormier and Anthony Johnson, however, he quickly changed his itinerary. He ended up sitting cageside for Cormier’s successful title defense over Johnson, after which Cormier called out Manuwa on the broadcast.
“I didn’t want [Jones] to kind of jump in line,” Manuwa told ESPN’s Five Rounds podcast. “I’ve been working hard, knocking people out. I believe I deserve the title shot. He’s the greatest of all time, but he’s been off a year, two years. He needs a warm-up fight and he knows he needs a warm-up fight.”
Earlier this week, White informed ESPN.com the UFC is willing to grant Jones (22-1) an immediate title shot against Cormier (19-1) at UFC 214 on July 29 in Anaheim, California.
Should Jones, who is serving a one-year suspension that ends on July 6, require additional time to prepare, the UFC intends to book Cormier’s next title defense against Manuwa.
No one likes to be the second option, but Manuwa admits he understands the UFC’s position, based on Jones’s past accomplishments. Manuwa also says he has plenty of options.
“It will bother me [if Jones takes the title shot], but at the end of the day, it won’t determine what I’m going to do,” Manuwa said. “I’ve got options. I’ve got [professional boxer] David Haye. I want my title shot and I deserve a title shot, but I’ve got options and this won’t define my career.”
A proposed boxing match against Haye (28-3, 26 KOs), a former heavyweight world champion, has been floating around headlines for weeks, ever since Manuwa called Haye out following a knockout win over Corey Anderson at UFC Fight Night in London.
Not long ago, a UFC contender calling out a boxing star would have been considered a pipe dream — but these are strange times in combat sports, and Manuwa claims there have been productive conversations about making the fight a reality. Haye, 36, is currently on the mend from a torn Achilles injury suffered last month.
“Dana likes it,” Manuwa said. “We were together and called David Haye and talked numbers. David is interested, but we want to get this title shot out of the way. We’ll see what happens. It’s all going to unfold in the next week or so.
“There’s not an agreement, but it’s very possible. Dana liked the numbers he was hearing and he said the fight is definitely, definitely possible. Together, with David Haye promotions and the UFC machine, we’re going to sell everything out.”
As far as other options within the UFC, Manuwa said the only one that has been discussed is former light heavyweight champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua (25-10), who has won three in a row.
Manuwa said he’d “love” to fight Rua, but that matchup probably doesn’t make the most sense at this point in his career.
“The only person, realistically, is Shogun,” Manuwa said. “I would love to fight Shogun, but for me, that’s going backwards. [My last fight], I was scheduled to fight [Glover] Teixeira, which was going forward. That fight didn’t happen and I took the Corey Anderson fight and knocked him out in two, three minutes. Shogun is ranked below me, so fighting Shogun would be going backwards.
“If I would have fought [Cormier] that night [at UFC 210], I would have knocked him out. That’s why I’m so confident in this fight. Everyone is writing me off and I really love it. I love his confidence. Because when he gets hit hard from me, he’s not going to know what to do. When he can’t take me down, feels my strength and I kill him in the clinch, he’s going to have a reality check.”