Current RFA flyweight champion Matt Manzanares admits that his last fight was tougher than expected.
Facing late replacement Junior Maranhao in April, Manzanares got all he could handle, but still managed to put things together and come out on top, claiming the title he’d been denied last year.
“Considering (Maranhao) took the fight on short notice, he came in good shape and had the biggest heart out of any guy I think,” Manzanares told MMAWeekly.com.
“I tried to finish the fight multiple times, but he just kept coming forward. Dealing with his size and length and reach advantage, I feel I implemented my game plan well and won all five rounds.”
Manzanares feels the performance is indicative of the way he’s been improving in training over the last year or so.
“Every training camp has gotten better,” he said. “I’ve gotten stronger and faster. My cardio has gotten better.
“With the last two fights being five round fights, I knew what it takes to get my body to that level. This time I feel I’ve pushed it even beyond those limits and this fight I’ll be able to let it shine.”
Manzanares (7-2) will look to defend his newly won title for the first time at RFA 18 in Albuquerque, N.M., against tough promotional newcomer Alexandre Pantoja (14-2) on Sept. 12.
“He’s got a very good record, has fought some very tough guys, and is on a good winning streak,” said Manzanares of Pantoja. “He’s a tough dude; he comes forward and comes to fight. I think that with my boxing and improved MMA game, I’ll be able to pick my shots and put him away.
“I’ve got to go out there and perform well. That’s been the goal this training camp and I know it’s going to pay off. I’m not the champion until I defend it – and I will defend it.”
With other RFA champions having made the move up to the UFC in the past year, Manzanares hopes a win on Friday will do the same for him.
“I see bigger things happening after this fight,” said Manzanares. “I know I’m really going to be able to push the pace and will be able to showcase my skill and talent and show how hard I’m working.
“I just want to get through this one and then hopefully something greater is on the horizon.”