However, Tyler Manawaroa is not your average 18-year-old. The Australian welterweight, known as “Young Gun,” already holds an 8-0 professional MMA record with seven finishes -- three knockouts and four submissions -- to his credit.
“He has finished everyone he’s fought except for one guy, and in that fight, every round was his,” said Rob Giuffrida, who serves as Manawaroa’s coach at Integrated MMA in Brisbane, Australia. “He needs bigger fights. We’ve done everything we can to move up. He’s only 18 years old and we’ve got guys who have been training for 10 years who struggle against him.”
Giuffrida likes the desire he sees in his understudy.
“He’s very committed and trains and works hard,” he said. “Each month, he gets much more dangerous and successful. Each fight, he’s fought tougher guys and he’s carving through everyone. He’s getting more mature and just needs an opportunity.”
Manawaroa has an athletic background in rugby. He played the sport and attended Brazilian jiu-jitsu classes a few days a week before he started to work on striking and wrestling.
“I just loved it,” said the 6-foot-1 Manawaroa, who has been training exclusively for MMA for nearly four years. “I gave up rugby and concentrated on MMA.”
His professional debut came in May 2011, when he tapped out Andrew Heatherington with a rear-naked choke in the first round of their fight at an event in Hervey Bay, Queensland. Two more victories followed before his 18th birthday in July 2011. After his third win, Manawaroa took eight months off before returning in March with another first-round, rear-naked choke submission, this one on Matthew Frincu at a Nitro MMA show in Logan City, Queensland. He has racked up four more wins since, most recently earning a three-round unanimous decision over Eugene Bareman on a Warriors Realm Fighting Championship card in August.
“Things have been going pretty good,” said Manawaroa. “I’ve won all my fights. Some of the fights have been pretty hard, but I’m still moving forward. I’ve been less scared to get in the cage before each fight, more confident before each fight, and I really think that’s helped me.”
Manawaroa trains at the same camp that UFC veteran Kyle Noke and Australian MMA mainstay Adrian Pang call home.
“It’s good,” Manawaroa said. “The coaches and other fighters really look after me. They do give me the beatdown, though, and don’t treat me any different due to my age. I definitely learn a lot from the other guys. [Pang] teaches me a lot. I’m always learning new stuff every day, every week.”
Giuffrida claims he saw Manawaroa’s potential almost immediately and admits he has had to continually push him due to his natural talent.
“Tyler came to me as a kid, and I have a class for teen-agers,” said Giuffrida. “A bunch of them had been training for a while. After the first class I had Tyler in there with them, I knew I had to move him up because he had an aptitude for things, and he would’ve hurt those kids; not on purpose, mind you, but because he was so much more advanced. And we had some pretty good guys in that class. Even as a beginner, he was a handful. I took him to Brisbane to our main training center and he trained with pros and he excelled. Now, he trains two or three times a day and six or seven days a week.”
Manawaroa recently attended the tryouts for the groundbreaking season of “The Ultimate Fighter: The Smashes,” which features fighters from Australia and the United Kingdom. Though Manawaroa was not cast, Giuffrida believes the experience was beneficial for the 18-year-old.
“Tyler didn’t make it through, which was disappointing, but I think he got to the final few guys,” said Giuffrida. “Guys went through that might have more of a personality for the show but maybe didn’t have the skills Tyler has. Also, they might not have taken him seriously due to his age.”
With five wins already under his belt in 2012, Manawaroa wants to take some time to train before he fights again. However, if a promotion like Strikeforce or the Ultimate Fighting Championship knocked on his door, Manawaroa would not hesitate to put his name on the dotted line.
“There’s nothing on the horizon right now,” he said. “I’m taking a break right now. I’m taking a break for a couple of months, [and] then I’ll get back into it. I’m ready now. If they called me tomorrow, I’d love to do that, and I know I could do well.”
Giuffrida feels that Manawaroa does not have much more to prove in Australia and should be fighting in a major promotion sooner rather than later.
“He’s beaten everybody in front of him and he trains hard every day,” said Giuffrida. “There should be opportunities for guys like him.”