From being a backup to a semi-finalist, the year of 2021 has been thrilling and life-changing for Raush Manfio. Two impressive displays in the regular season, saw him progress through to the play-offs with six points and a third-place finish with two victories to his name.
After an Olivier Aubin-Mercier injury, Manfio stepped in to face Joilton Lutterbach at PFL 1. A back and forth bout, saw Manfio come away with the split decision victory. The contest was mainly on the feet, with Lutterbach looking for the take-down on several occasions. Manfio’s striking was impressive enough for the judges to award the fight in his favor.
A dream fight for anyone in the competition was next for Manfio. One of PFL’s star signings in 2021 was Anthony Pettis, who was on the verge of being eliminated if he couldn’t find a victory against Manfio. A heavy knee in the final round saw Manfio inches away from victory over Pettis, but “Showtime” clawed his way out to survive Manfio’s wrath. A surprising split decision was the result, but Manfio came out victorious and correctly so.
Years of hard work and determination in this sport have got Manfio to where he is today. The former Titan FC lightweight champion is hungry for more gold, and winning the PFL will be the biggest statement of his career. He’s a seriously powerful and direct striker, with seven knockouts in his 13 victories. He may have no submissions to his name, but ruling him out on the ground isn’t an option, we could see his grappling skills pay off against a boxer like Clay Collard.
I had the pleasure of speaking to Manfio ahead of his semi-final bout against Collard on Friday night.
Interview with PFL’s Raush Manfio
So, Raush, originally you were a backup fighter for the PFL 21 season, now you’re just days away from the semi-finals, how does that feel?
Raush Manfio – Yeah, I feel great, God opened this door for me and I was ready. I’m training a lot. I was almost quitting my career. But I was training because I love to train. I’m a true martial artist, so when they opened this door and give me the opportunity I was very motivated in training. Even though I was not looking to fight professional anymore, but it’s the best sensation I’ve had in my life.”
It was an extremely impressive display against Anthony Pettis, with you coming inches away from the finish at times, were you shocked by the decision being a split?
Raush Manfio – The fight against Pettis, I totally disagree with the judges, you understand that fight was for him. I would understand if some judge put a draw, but no win for him for sure. I watched the fight many times, I definitely won the last round 10-8 and that was the difference in the fight, I won by unanimous decision for sure.”
How has training been leading up to the fight, knowing you’re stepping into the cage for the biggest fight of your career?
Raush Manfio – My training camp for this fight was great, no injuries to my body, I’m feeling healthy, the weight cut is tomorrow, I’m feeling good. Yes, this is the most important fight of my career. I try not to put the pressure on my shoulders, even after this fight I need to get prepared for the finals, after the final I need to get prepared for the next fight and till my career is over, so every fight is going to be the most important of my life, so the next one is always the important one, that’s the way I try enjoy my career.”
You have seven TKO/KO finishes on your record, is it always in your mindset to go in there and finish every opponent in your path or do you treat each opponent differently?
Raush Manfio – I always have the goal to knock out my opponents, I always try. I never try to hold a fight to the last minute to try and win. I always try to finish the fight by KO, that’s my goal. Truly this has never not happened! (He joked). That’s why I think I’m a dangerous opponent.”
Knowing at the end of this tournament, there’s a cheque for the sum of $1 million dollars waiting for the winner. Is this a big motive for you or is money not in your thoughts?
Raush Manfio – This money is life-changing money for sure, but I’m not fighting for money, if I were born rich I would do this for free. Unfortunately, I wasn’t born rich so I need money to provide for my family. The main reason for a fight, I have this dream to become the best fighter in the world, I love the process, I love to be a professional fighter, I choose this for my life since I was a kid, I knew what I want, and I follow these steps of the other great fighters to be a professional fighter, yes money is important, but I’m not thinking of this million as my main goal.”
Do you think you’ve already proved yourself enough to have a spot in the PFL 2022 season?
Raush Manfio – I hope so, I think I proved enough to be in the 2022 season for sure. But you’re going to see Raush Manfio stronger than against Pettis this Friday, so if my first two fights weren’t enough to prove, after this fight for sure I will prove that.”
What are your thoughts on Clay Collard? How much of your time do you spend studying your opponent?
Raush Manfio – I watched his fights, I studied his last two fights more than the others, he’s a really good boxer, aggressive, he walks forward, he didn’t walk back, he always pressuring the guys. So, I studied him to stop this part of his game, make him walk back, this is going to be a good fight, we’re going to stop this fight in the first round because he comes forward, I think have more knockout power than him, he comes forward, I go forward, it’s a clash of titans and let’s see what happens.”
Finally, what are the goals and dreams for the next five years in the life of Raush Manfio?
Raush Manfio – The next five years, I want to become an idol in the sport, a good example for the kids who watch me. All this process is so difficult. I want to give more to my family. I love this PFL format, so I know how much time I can have in my vacation time, so I can enjoy with my family. When I invest in myself in my social media, I really want to become a great idol in this sport and make this sport great again. Not like the guys are doing to promote their fights now. For the next five years, I hope I don’t fight my friends! I was meant to fight Natan, but this fight didn’t happen, but I want to fight the best fighters in the world. I want to keep going and make many fights a year, every year make four fights, so I can provide for my family and have time to rest and evolve my game. So, the next five years I’m going to be a totally different warhorse, totally better warhorse because I’m dedicated not to just win this season in 2021. I am dedicated to win every season they put me in, even if I don’t fight PFL anymore, whatever GOD allow me to fight, I am looking to become a champion, that’s my way, but I am focused right now on PFL 2021.”
Featured Image Credits To PFL MMA