Rising British light-heavyweight prospect Jimi Manuwa had the UFC deal he worked hard so to get – and still decided to pull the plug.
The 28-year-old knockout artist is in no hurry. When he gets to the big show, he wants to hit the ground running. In the meantime, he's logging cage time.
Manuwa (9-0) looks to defend his Ultimate Challenge MMA light-heavyweight belt against Nick Chapman (2-0) at "UCMMA 24: Hands of War" on Saturday. The overseas event takes places at The Troxy in London.
"I've run over all the competition I've had over here (in Europe), and I just wanted to get a bit more international experience," Manuwa told MMAjunkie.com Radio (www.mmajunkie.com/radio
). "I would have probably taken this fight then the UFC (138) fight would have been two weeks after. It would have been kind of too close."
It's been more than a year since Manuwa most recently fought. He defeated Valentino Petrescu by first round knockout in August 2010. He now has finished all nine of his opponents, eight by knockout.
"I've not been out of the gym, but I've been out of the cage," Manuwa said. "Last year after the (Petrescu) fight, I carried on training, and I got a major injury. I thought I would fight again, and then I thought better. Then I lined up a couple of fights, and then the opponents pulled out. Then I got injured again."
Although Manuwa's career spans three years, only two have really been healthy ones. Couple that with the fact that he took his first professional MMA fight in 2008 with no amateur experience (and after only three weeks of training), and what you have is still a relatively inexperienced fighter.
Manuwa knows it, and he's decided to take the proper steps in order to arrive in the UFC a finished product.
It's a refreshing outlook for a young fighter. Many prospects have come into the UFC at a young age and fallen by the wayside relatively quickly, never to be seen or heard from again.
Patience is even more of a virtue in a fast-paced, ever-evolving sport such as MMA. Manuwa appears to have it mapped out pretty well so far.
"Three or four hard fights (more), and then I'll probably go there (to the UFC)," he said.
Manuwa plans on fighting for another promotion following this weekend's Chapman fight. His next training camp will also include spending time at Alliance MMA in California, in addition to his normal work in his home country at Keddles Gym, Nova Forca BJJ and Lion's Pride MMA (a gym he recently opened in South London).
The opportunity to upgrade his level of training partners to include the likes of UFC light heavyweights Phil Davis, Brandon Vera and Alexander Gustafsson should only continue to further his development.
"My overall goal is to be UFC champion," Manuwa said. "I want to destroy all the international opponents: good, well-known opponents like 'Sokoudjou,' Houston Alexander, ex-UFC (guys). I want to destroy all of them and then go to the UFC after that. I want to destroy all of the contenders there and go for the belt. That's all I know how to do, destroy people."