The Ultimate Fighting Championship’s announcement of a Jimi Manuwa-Corey Anderson main event at UFC Fight Night 107 on Saturday in London (current odds) was met with some criticism on social media. According to Manuwa, it was not for lack of effort on his part.
“Poster Boy” claims he campaigned to face several more prominent light heavyweight contenders before Anderson was settled upon. Manuwa has momentum on his side following the most significant victory of his career -- a knockout of Ovince St. Preux at UFC 204 in October -- and most expected him to be paired with a bigger name, given that his last dance partner atop a UFC show in London was perennial contender Alexander Gustafsson. When asked about the backlash his latest headlining assignment received, Manuwa remains adamant that he originally requested a showdown with longtime divisional standout Glover Teixeira.
“I can see where the criticism comes from,” Manuwa told Sherdog.com. “Believe me, after my win over OSP, I said that I wanted to fight straightaway. I came out unscathed from the fight, and we pushed to get back in as soon as we could. I wanted a top-five guy. I signed a contract to fight Glover in California, but that card was scrapped in the end. Then we went back and forth to try to organize it for London, but I really don’t think he wanted to fight.
“He ended up signing to fight the number 15-ranked light heavyweight instead,” he added. “I really don’t understand that, but from my position, I guess he really didn’t want the fight with me. If he wanted to fight, he would have pushed for it. I pushed hard for the fight. I really campaigned for it on the Brooklyn card or the London card, but that seemed to be a no-go.”
Aside from Teixeira, Manuwa insists he also sought out potential matchups with Ryan Bader and former light heavyweight champion Mauricio Rua. Anderson soon emerged as a possible candidate, “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 19 winner having gone 6-2 since joining the UFC roster in 2014 .
“We pushed for Bader, but that couldn’t happen because of his contract issues,” he said. “We also pushed for ‘Shogun’ because we really wanted a big name for London. Again, ‘Shogun’ said no. He didn’t want to fight. We were left with Misha Cirkunov and Anderson, and we went with Anderson because we felt like he’s the bigger name.
“Honestly, I don’t mean to offend Corey by saying this,” Manuwa added. “He has proven how good he is by winning TUF. I’m not underestimating him by any stretch of the imagination. I know he’s going to be a stern test for me.”
Manuwa believes his punching power was a deterrent for Teixeira, who rebounded from his knockout loss to Anthony Johnson in August and went on to beat Jared Cannonier by unanimous decision at UFC 208 on Feb. 11.
“Of course my knockout power was the reason they didn’t want to face me,” he said. “I think these guys are too worried about holding on to their spot in the rankings. I don’t blame them for that, but at the same time, we’re fighters. I’ve never turned down a fight in my life. The first time I got into the rankings, I stepped in to face one of the best in the division, Gustafsson, in my backyard when [Antonio Rogerio] Nogueira had to pull out. I jumped at the chance. Then I stepped in on five weeks’ notice to fight to fight ‘Rumble’ Johnson, and again, I jumped all over that opportunity.
“We’re not scared to fight anyone,” Manuwa added. “A fight is a fight. You’ve got to be in this game to fight first. Too many guys are looking at this like a business now. I don’t fear anybody, and I’ll fight anybody.”
Should he get past Anderson, Manuwa could encounter some of the same problems in terms of matchmaking. He now trains alongside Gustafsson, making a rematch between the two unlikely. In addition, Manuwa claims to have washed his hands of a potential fight with Teixeira.
“If I win this fight, Glover won’t even cross my mind,” he said. “He’s had his chance. I don’t want to fight him no more. I’m honestly not interested in it anymore. I signed the contract, he was on my radar and then I don’t know what happened on his end. I think a win over Corey will definitely put me in the title conversation. When you look at the top of the bracket, there aren’t a lot of fights.
“Gustafsson is my training partner, so obviously I don’t want to fight him. Other than him, who is ahead of me?” Manuwa asked. “Bader looks like he could be going to Bellator, and Teixeira will not fight me, so yeah, I guess a win over Corey will definitely put me into the title mix.”
Another fighter has drawn Manuwa’s gaze: former light heavyweight champion Jon Jones. While Jones figures to get an immediate title shot upon his return this summer, “Poster Boy” would be more than willing to greet his return to the Octagon if UFC matchmakers choose to go in another direction.
“Why not? What a great fight that would be,” Manuwa said. “I would love to fight a man I consider the all-time great UFC fighter. You can’t not be a fan of Jones’ fighting style. That being said, if I got the opportunity to welcome him back, I’d be more than happy to welcome him back. I can assure you I definitely wouldn’t be a fan on that night if it happened. I’d be training to destroy him.”