After suffering a close split-decision loss in his middleweight title challenge to Rafael Carvalho at Bellator 155 last May, Melvin Manhoef was looking forward to their December rematch when an injury to his opponent delayed the fight.
While he was disappointed his chance for redemption was delayed, Manhoef used the additional time to better prepare himself as the two get set to finally meet again on Saturday.
“An injury is an injury,” Manhoef told MMAWeekly.com. “What can I say? It doesn’t matter. I get the rematch now. And I can get the belt now, and that’s what we’re going to do.
“The extra time really changed the game. It gave me more time to adjust my game better, so it was a good thing.”
Looking back on their first bout, Manhoef knows there are things he did well, and not so well, and more importantly he was able to go all five rounds, making him more confident for the rematch.
“I had patience, and that was working,” said Manhoef. “Normally I don’t have patience. What was working is that I had five rounds, so I had seen a lot of positive points. The things that didn’t work, we adjust now, so they work now.
“I know that I can (go all five rounds) now. I know that I can keep up pressure. So that’s what we’re going to do now. I think this fight was a very good learning process.”
Manhoef (30-13-1) says he’ll put aside any personal feelings in pursuit of one goal: defeating Carvalho (13-1) in the main event of Bellator 176 to claim the promotion’s 185-pound title. The fight takes place on Saturday in Torino, Italy.
“It doesn’t matter – all the other stuff doesn’t matter – I have to be focused, and the focus is on getting the belt,” Manhoef said. “I want to make my family, my team, my gym, my fans; I want to give them something back.
“I want to become champion so they can see that if you work hard, you can get your goals. That’s what I’m trying to do. I’m 40 years old and I am still fighting for the belt. I’ve been fighting for 22 years, but it will be the most memorable moment of my career, I think.”
For Manhoef, becoming champion is only one part of his goal; the second is to bring the title with him back to his native country and become the first Bellator MMA belt holder to defend it there.
“I want to be the first to bring Bellator to the Netherlands and defend my title,” said Manhoef. “That’s what I want, and if I want that, I have to win this belt, so I’m going to take this belt.
“I want to go for the kill – I want to go for the knockout – that’s the young part of me. I want to always bring exciting fights to the fans. The older part is that thinking that this is the moment, to cherish this moment, be careful with this moment and do what I have to do to win the belt.”