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Melvin Manhoef reflects on 3 best knockouts, Anderson Silva dream match ahead of final fight at Bellator 285

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Win or lose Melvin Manhoef has always gone off with a bang and the situation is no different as he trains for MMA competition for the last time.

Manhoef, 46, takes over Yoel Romero This Friday in the co-main event of Bellator 285 at the 3Arena in Dublin, Ireland, in what is believed to be the last fight of Manhoef’s 25-year professional fight career. Since his first fight in December 2015, Manhoef has won 32 wins in 50 matches, 29 of which were by knockout.

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MMA Fighting spoke to Manhoef ahead of Friday’s landmark match to discuss lynching that he issued earlier this year, why this is the right time for him to retire from fighting, the most memorable knockouts of his career, the only opponent he would want to fight in his prime, and of course, whether this is really the end.

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(Questions and answers edited for grammar and clarity.)

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What were the consequences of your pursuit of those robbers in March?

No, I didn’t get in trouble. They understand that I did it. It’s not good, but there was nothing wrong with it. Everyone said that for this time they will leave everything as it is, and for me it was normal.

This will be your last fight. Why now?

This is the last fight on the contract and I don’t think they’re going to renew it. I’m 46 and it’s time to move on and let the little guys do other things. I feel good, I feel very good and the training camp went well. I train with a lot of young guys and it’s still hard for them to fight me.

It’s a bit strange. On the one hand, I don’t want to stop because I think I can still handle some good guys. I can still knock people out. I knocked out people in this training camp, I knocked out a lot of people, so I think I’m doing a good job. One side doesn’t want to stop, the other side has to think about all the damage I’m taking now, I’m getting older, so now every hit counts as two. I say okay, everything is fine, maybe I should continue like this and be blessed that I had such a beautiful career.

If you beat Yoel Romero in spectacular fashion at Bellator 285, would that make it easier or harder to get away?

Of course, it will be easier for me to retire if I knock him out. I dont know. It will be easy, even if I lose, it will be easy for me to resign. It won’t feel like waiting. This is a fighting game. Sometimes you hurt, sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. Everyone knows who I am and what my fighting style is. I’m aggressive, I go to knock people out and if it happens, it happens, and if not, I think I’ve always entertained the public.

Yoel Romero and Melvin Manhoef
Lucas Noonan, Bellator MMA

How do you maintain that connection with the audience after 25 years of performing?

I think I always come into the fight, I always give it my all. Despite the fact that in all the fights that I lost, I won everyone. But, for example, I think people like it when they give it their all and go for it. Sometimes it’s also unreasonable that I fight like that, but I think people get paid a lot of money, I get paid a lot of money from promotions, so I have to work. You can see it. This is the energy that I give, I think.

Your last fight was against Corey Anderson, one of the best light heavyweights in the world, and now you’re fighting Yoel Romero. Have you ever thought about asking Bellator to take a step back in competition for your final fight?

This is what I wanted. This is the last fight, so come with a bang and leave with a bang. That’s how it is. I think people are going to love this fight and people are watching this fight very closely, so I think I made a good choice.

The fight with Corey Anderson was also a good fight and Corey Anderson is one of the greatest fighters. I had a good training camp there, but I don’t know what happened there because I was a little out of breath. Even in that fight, I’m still proud of myself that I did it, and it took him two rounds to finish me off. The fight lasted one round, so I’m holding on to it a bit to keep a positive attitude.

Looking back a little further, should this be the last fight as planned: 32 pro wins, 29 by knockout. Can you name the most memorable knockout in your career?

I think the fight with Mark Hunt or the fight with Sakuraba is the most memorable for me, and also the fight with Cyborg. [Evangelista Santos].

These three fights I keep to myself. Sakuraba is one of the legends behind PRIDE and all that, and it was an honor for me to fight him. Also with Mark Hunt I had the same feeling that he was a K-1 champion and a legend and he was never knocked out and I did it. These things are special to me.

Seventeen years ago, I fought Cyborg, and that was also a fight that the crowd endured. [on their feet]. It was an unforgettable fight for me. These three fights are very important to me and I really enjoyed them.

I guess those are the fights that I think most fans will see when it comes to your career. You were there with many famous names: Hunt, Sakuraba, Geghard Mousasi, Robbie Lawler, Mammad Khalidov. Is there anyone you wanted to fight early in your career but missed out on?

At the beginning of my career, I was supposed to fight Anderson Silva in Cage Rage. At the moment we were both champions. He was in [middleweight] and I was a light heavyweight but I didn’t know him then and now I know him and he’s my friend, I don’t want to fight him. But when I didn’t know him, I thought it was a fight that people should have seen.

Was there ever a chance that this would happen?

No, because then he went to the UFC, and I went to K-1.

You mentioned Anderson, what do you think of him boxing Jake Paul?

I hope [Silva] beats him up. I hope he beats him. Maybe I will support him and help him a little to defeat him.

He can [knock Paul out]. Anderson has combat experience, but [Paul] has youth. He wants to leave and he can fuck, you saw what he did with [Tyron] Woodley, so you have to take him seriously. But I think Anderson is more technical and smarter and he’s had harder fights so I think Anderson can handle it and I think I might knock him out.

As you head towards this final fight, can you look back at the impact you have had on fighters from the Netherlands and your home country of Suriname?

It is very important that I can motivate other people to do what I love the most. This is very good for me. It’s also fuel because I know people are counting on me. It’s a pleasant feeling. I’ve talked to a lot of people who say I inspire them, so it’s nice that your work is appreciated.

Melvin Manhoef
Bellator MMA

What is the most important piece of advice you give to fighters looking to achieve the same longevity as you?

Believe man. Be consistent, it’s very important. Keep being there, keep training, keep believing, and it will come naturally. You must invest. You can’t put something in and get it the next day. If you plant a seed in the ground, the next day it is no longer a tree. You have to wait 10, 15 years and then you will have a hell tree. So investing in yourself is the most important part. Everyone can say: “You will not survive.” Just keep believing and go.

Are there any mistakes in your career that you would warn other fighters against?

Sometimes you fight and don’t think about your health. I fought Remy Bonjasky and then five days later I had two liters of blood in my lungs and after that I still got on a plane to Japan and still fought. [another] Struggle. Such things are dangerous, but on the other hand, if you are a fighter, you must do such things. So that’s advice I can give because I’m getting a little older, but when I was younger I thought, yeah, that’s part of the deal. This is part of life.

After September 23rd, if the right fight comes up, the right offer, will the door open for another fight?

If there is the right amount of money, then, of course, the door is open. This is what we do for a living. This is what we do when we put bread on the table. At this point, I am very savvy and very healthy, so if it happens in a few months, it might be. But it can’t be in a year or something like that, it’s impossible.

So in a year you will know for sure.

I’m done, I’m done. But if the necessary amount of money comes, then I can fight, but it should be in the next six months. If I have to wait longer, then no, man, I’m almost 47, which is good for me.


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