Croydon wrecking ball Jimi Manuwa has eyes on UFC title

Richmond and Twickenham Times: Jimi Manuwa Jimi Manuwa

Being an opponent of mixed martial arts fighter Jimi Manuwa to date appears to involve spending a lot of time lying on your back, counting the stars spinning before your eyes, writes Jim Palmer.

The Croydon wrecking ball, who trained at Keddle’s Gym in St Mary Cray and has his sights set on becoming the first Bristh holder of a UFC title, has won all 14 of his professional fights, with 13 knockouts and one submission.

His explosive striking has brought him a pop at the World number two ranked light heavyweight Alex Gustafsson in the main event of UFC Fight Night London at the O2 on March 8.

It is a hell of a fight in prospect, and one which the less experienced Manuwa is entering as the underdog.

After all, Gustafsson took current champ Jon Jones the full five rounds and, according to some, should have won what was popularly dubbed 2013’s Fight of the Year.

Speaking to Vibe, Manuwa said: "A lot of people are expecting me to lose the fight but I am using that as fuel to train harder and win the fight.

"I always expect to win all of my fights. I’m training really hard. I’m training harder than I have ever trained before."

The 33-year-old’s training camp started in November and he said it will pick up in the middle of January.

He’s lived all over Croydon - in Broad Green, Thornton Heath and West Croydon - and said although he got into his ‘fair share’ fights as a kid he was no little scrapper.

It was through being a fan of MMA and the UFC that he decided to take up the sport.

He said: "I was 28 and I wasn’t scared of anything.

"I went in, I didn’t care how I got there - I would do anything to train and be the best. I didn’t really care about little injuries because you get them in anything.

"MMA has changed my life. It’s given me a lot of focus and goals. I’m never bored - I’m always training and trying to get better.

Jimi Manuwa fights Alex Gustafsson at UFC Fight Night London at the O2 on March 8. Tickets go on sale January 31.

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