by Damon Martin – MMAWeekly.com
Injuries are a part of fighting but sometimes the timing can really hurt an event, but luckily for K-1 when Carlos Newton had to back out of his scheduled bout in their middleweight tournament due to a torn ligament in his knee, Pride veteran Crosley Gracie stepped up on 48 hours notice to take on Melvin Manhoef, the current Cage Rage light heavyweight champion fresh off his first round KO over veteran Ian Freeman in early July.
Manhoef has to be considered one of the favorites in this tournament but a change of opponents this close to fight time is enough to rattle the most well prepared of fighters. While Manhoef doesn’t sound happy about the opponent switch, he may just channel that anger towards Gracie in their fight.
“It’s just a fight,” said Manhoef speaking about the bout. “I train my ground game and I train standing up so it doesn’t matter. It’s a little bit f@#ked up, but you’re a professional and you must fight and I’m going to fight and I want to win so I will bring everything to win this fight.”
Fortunately, Manhoef was already training for a ground fighter with Carlos Newton and he’ll have a similar situation facing Gracie. Manhoef still sounds confident in his ability to keep the fight where he wants it but understands the danger any member of the Gracie family brings to a match-up like this.
“He is a real Gracie and so you know what the Gracie’s stand for so I must be careful now for going to the ground and something like this but it was also the same with Carlos because he is also a good ground fighter. Now I just have to change the tactic a little bit, so it’s a little bit awkward to do it 2 days before so you cannot practice anymore but we will do it,” Manhoef said about his new opponent.
Helping his cousin Rodrigo train for his fight on the same show is the only preparation that Crosley Gracie will have prior to his bout with Melvin Manhoef, but when opportunity knocks its hard not to answer the door and Gracie couldn’t pass up the chance. While he has been working with Rodrigo to get ready for Shungo Oyama, Crosley has kept in fight form.
“I’ve been training with Rodrigo for the last month and a half so I’m in shape, obviously I’m not as in good as shape as I was for my previous fights but I’m in decent shape so I figured why not,” said Gracie.
Never doubt the spirit of a real fighter who isn’t afraid to step in at a moment’s notice, and Gracie can do nothing but gain respect for stepping in on such short notice. But outside of his conditioning, Gracie now has to prepare for one of the best up and coming fighters in all of MMA with Manhoef. The always dangerous Manhoef has fierce striking on his side and Gracie will have be well aware at all times to keep his hands up to defend against his opponent’s stand-up, but Crosley sounds confident that he can get the fight to the ground where he feels he has an advantage.
“Obviously I’m not going to trade with him the whole match,” said Gracie. “Even if I do feel comfortable on the feet, I’m going to use that to my advantage to close the distance and take the fight to the ground. But I’m not going to be in any kind of a hurry, I’ll take my time and that’s my game plan.”
On only 2 days notice Crosley Gracie will find out if he really is ready when he steps in to take on Melvin Manhoef at K-1′s Hero’s show this weekend.