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Melvin Manhoef and the fine line between entertainment and MMA effectiveness

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Bellator MMA

There is a certain expectation of any fight involving Melvin Manhoef. Someone is going to get knocked out -- whether it be Manhoef or his opponent.

Pound-for-pound, the Dutch kickboxer is one of the most exciting MMA fighters around. That doesn't always translate into winning fights, but Manhoef also knows his entertainment value is one of the reasons he is employed by a big organization like Bellator.

"I do my show and I hope people enjoy it," Manhoef told MMAFighting.com. "This is what I want to do for Bellator. I want to make great fights."

Yes. But at age 38, there's something else Manhoef covets: the Bellator middleweight title. He meets former champion Alexander Shlemenko in the main event of Bellator 133 on Friday night in Fresno, Calif. Though he's coming off a loss to Joe Schilling (by knockout, of course), a win over Shlemenko puts him in excellent position in the division. That's the kind of thing that could make Manhoef think more about a 'W' than a highlight-reel knockout.

"I want to be champion in Bellator," Manhoef said. "I really want to be champion. I want to retire as champion. This is the thing that motivates me. I won't stop until I get that belt. I won't stop."

Manhoef (29-12-1, 1 NC) knows exactly how Schilling was able to knock him out at Bellator 131 on Nov. 15. It's the same reason Manhoef has lost many of his fights, including against current UFC welterweight champion Robbie Lawler when the two clashed in Strikeforce back in 2010.

"I overcommitted," Manhoef said. "I thought I had him. He was stepping backwards and he got me. This is like the never-ending story of me. Always when I'm in the ring or in the cage, I want to be finishing people off. If I got you, I want to put you out immediately. I don't have patience. So I hope this time I will have more patience to finish the fight correctly and nice."

That's a rare bit of self-awareness from a fighter. Many expect Manhoef's bout with Shlemenko, another exciting striker, to be a firefight. Manhoef said he's prepared for anything, including potentially having to show some restraint.

"I know my mistakes," Manhoef said. "That makes Melvin Manhoef. I think I'm looking for my knockouts, I'm searching for them. That's basically me. And from all 29 fights that I knocked people out, it worked. At the moment I got them, I finished them. The fights I lose, sometimes I was beating up my opponent and still they knocked me out or they got me submitted."

Manhoef knows the number almost by heart. He has 29 career wins and all but two have come by way of KO. In many ways, that has been his job, more so than simply just winning fights. Manhoef is an attraction.

That fact remains, but Manhoef's goals go deeper now. He knows the clock on his career is ticking. "No Mercy" is even putting a mini hold on his kickboxing stints with Glory to put all of his time into training for MMA.

"For me now, truly I want to focus on Bellator, focus on my MMA, focus on getting more patience and focus on getting the title," Manhoef said. "This is what I'm focusing on."

Don't be fooled, though. Manhoef still has one goal for the Shlemenko fight. It doesn't involve lay and pray.

"I'm gonna knock people out," Manhoef said. "This is what I want to do. If I knock a few people out, I hope then [Bellator president] Scott [Coker] will give me another chance again."