Following an eventful 2012 where he went 4-1 and stepped up to a large promotion like the RFA, flyweight Matt Manzanares spent much of this year on the sidelines.
After having been scheduled to fight earlier this year, injury kept Manzanares from getting back in the cage until August when he scored a second-round win over Steve Swanson at RFA 9.
“It felt great to get back in there,” Manzanares told MMAWeekly.com. “I felt great leading up to the fight. I was fully healthy. I was determined to win and get back on track again (after the injury) and get a solid win.
“I felt I could have done a lot more standing up. I was a little tentative, but I ended up winning via armbar. I knew what he was trying to do. I knew my stand-up was getting the best of him and he was going to try to take me down, so I slapped the armbar on him.”
The win raised Manzanares’ record to 7-1 and has him on a two-fight winning streak heading into this Friday’s RFA 11 in Denver, where he faces Zach Makovsky for the promotion’s inaugural flyweight championship.
“I’ve been watching him for a long time,” said Manzanares. “Zach’s very strong and very athletic. He has great wrestling and great all-around MMA skills.
“He’s gonna definitely try to implement his wrestling on me and keep the fight on the ground, where I’ll probably apply my jiu-jitsu and submit him. I think it’s going to be a very tough five-round fight and that’s what we’ve prepared for this whole camp, so I’ll be ready.”
For Manzanares, fighting for the RFA 145-pound title drives him to be even better this time out than he’s been before.
“It’s definitely been a motivator,” he said. “Before this, I was training super-hard, and when I found out I was fighting for a title, it just boosted my confidence.
“My overall mentality has been to just train as hard as I can. To go five rounds, I’ve been putting countless hours in the gym to be in top physical shape for Nov. 22.”
After having a slow start to his year, Manzanares can close out 2013 in a big way and set himself up for an even bigger year in 2014.
“I’m not looking past this fight, but it’s going to be a huge feather in my cap,” said Manzanares. “Fighting a guy like Zach, you never want to look past somebody like that because he’s an awesome fighter. Hopefully it’s just going to be great.
“It’s going to be a great way to end the year, especially with a belt around my waist and hopefully looking forward to more opportunities (next year).”