Jimi Manuwa will have designs on entertaining his hometown crowd when he goes toe-to-toe with Jan Blachowicz in the UFC Fight Night 127 co-main event on Saturday at the O2 Arena in London. There, he can make it 2-0 in his head-to-head series against Blachowicz, having beaten the former KSW champion in their first encounter three years ago. Should Manuwa defeat the Pole again and do so in dominating fashion, he could find himself on the verge of a title shot in the Ultimate Fighting Championship light heavyweight division.
As Manuwa prepares for his rematch with Blachowicz, here are five things you might not know about him:
1. Life outside the Octagon keeps him on his toes.
Manuwa has admitted that business interests occupy his time outside of competition. Among his ventures is the Lion’s Pride Gym, which has been called a mecca for young fighters who wish to follow in his footsteps. “Poster Boy” also has his hands in a supercar hire company and Warrior Energy, a nutritional company.
2. He had a run-in with the law prior to his entry into mixed martial arts.
After relocating to London from Nigeria at the age of 10, Manuwa found it difficult to assimilate and turned to crime and violence. He was banned from various clubs around London, and in 2002, he was charged with “conspiracy to burgle” after authorities determined he was involved in “stealing high-value items like computers” and “robbing commercial properties.” Manuwa spent a year in jail. He admits he “hated every minute” behind bars but credited his incarceration for forcing him to make smarter choices.
3. A weightlifting injury led to his career in MMA.
Manuwa was an avid weightlifter prior to his 2008 debut in mixed martial arts. After tearing his pectoral muscle, he tried jiu-jitsu and then ventured into kickboxing under the Keddle’s Gym banner. There, he found an outlet through which to vent about his childhood experiences and fed his fascination with MMA while watching the UFC. Manuwa later became the crown jewel of the Ultimate Challenge MMA organization, capturing its light heavyweight championship in just his fifth professional appearance. He went on to defend the title five times before signing with the British Association of Mixed Martial Arts.
4. He turned down early offers from the UFC.
While emerging as a prospect on the regional scene in the United Kingdom, Manuwa raised eyebrows by turning down initial offers from the Ultimate Fighting Championship. When he was first approached by the promotion, he indicated that “it wasn’t the right time to accept” a contract but reiterated that it was his “ultimate goal” to join the UFC in the future. Manuwa was later offered a spot at UFC 138 and a chance to fight in Birmingham, England, on Nov. 5, 2011. He again declined the UFC’s overtures, citing the fact that he had not fought in more than a year and would have to jump in the Octagon after a long layoff, “which is not ideal in any circumstances.”
5. His resume highlights his strengths.
Manuwa’s 17-3 record includes 15 wins by knockout or technical knockout and 11 first-round finishes. He earned “Performance of the Night” awards against Ovince St. Preux at UFC 204 and Corey Anderson at UFC Fight Night 107. Manuwa delivered his lone submission victory in February 2009, when he submitted Jamie Hearn with a guillotine choke at an Ultimate Challenge MMA event. “Poster Boy” has gone the distance only once in 20 pro bouts, taking a unanimous decision from Blachowicz at UFC Fight Night 64.