Clay Collard can probably smell the money being dangled in front of him.
The resurgent 28-year-old will face Raush Manfio in the 2021 Professional Fighters League lightweight semifinals, their three-round battle serving as a PFL 7 co-feature on Friday at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida. Collard enters the cage with the wind of a four-fight winning streak in his sails. He last appeared at PFL 4, where he eked out a split decision against an overweight Joilton Lutterbach on June 10. The stakes are now much higher: A win over American Top Team’s Manfio would advance Collard to the 155-pound final to compete for a life-changing $1 million payday.
As Collard approaches his semifinal showdown with Manfio, here are five things you might not know about him:
1. He rose from humble beginnings.
Collard was born on March 10, 1993 in Payson, Utah—a city of roughly 19,000 people located 60 miles south of Salt Lake City. He shares a hometown with four-time Grammy award winner Jewel.
2. His learning curve was steep.
“Cassius Clay” was drawn to boxing and wrestling at an early age, a fact that likely eased his transition to mixed martial arts. Collard made his professional MMA debut at the age of 18 on March 26, 2011, as he put away Daniel Ruiz with first-round punches at a Moab Combat Sports event. He went on to fight 15 times as a teenager, compiling a 10-4 record with one no contest. Those four losses represent exactly half of Collard’s career total.
3. The UFC deck was stacked against him.
Collard was afforded four appearances in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, where he went 1-3 between Aug. 23, 2014 and Sept. 5, 2015. Matchmakers did him no favors, as he was paired with Max Holloway in his first Octagon assignment at UFC Fight Night 49. The future featherweight champion cut down Collard with third-round punches and remains the only man to stop him with strikes in MMA competition.
4. Gold has proven to be a lure.
The Utah native held regional championships before and after his stint in the UFC. Collard captured the Showdown Fights lightweight crown with a split decision over Justin Buchholz on Sept. 28, 2013, laid claim to the Steel Fist Fight Night lightweight title with a 46-second technical knockout of Troy Dennison on Jan. 13, 2018 and took home the Steel Fist Fight Night welterweight belt with a second-round triangle choke submission of Carson Gregory on April 13, 2018.
5. He monitors interests outside of MMA.
Collard owns a respectable 9-4-3 record as a professional boxer. He went 5-1 in 2020, rattling off consecutive victories over Quashawn Toler, Raymond Guajardo, David Kaminsky, Lorawnt T. Nelson and Maurice Williams before dropping an eight-round unanimous decision to Quincy LaVallais.