In retrospect, it's a miracle Jimi Manuwa even made it to the cage.
Manuwa captured a hard-fought decision over Polish light heavyweight Jan Blachowicz in UFC Fight Night 64's co-main event. The fight was a grueling and occasionally listless affair, but afterward Manuwa revealed at Saturday's post-fight press conference that a nasty knee injury he suffered during training camp nearly sunk the bout before it could ever begin.
"I almost didn't make it to the fight," Manuwa said. "I only got cleared, like, literally last week to fight.
"I had a bad knee injury. I tore my meniscus, and MCL and ACL as well. They told me I shouldn't fight, and I said no, I've got to fight. I can't pull out of the fight. So you know, it was a big decision for me and the team, but we had to go through with it."
Manuwa said he was unable to spar for the entire month leading up to the bout and that he plans to leave Poland and head straight into surgery. Doctors advised him not to fight, but Manuwa refused to "ruin" what was an already sparse UFC Fight Night 64 card by withdrawing from his bout.
The gamble paid off, as Manuwa (15-1) rebounded from his March 2014 loss to Alexander Gustafsson by outboxing Blachowicz inside the clinch and controlling long sequences of the fight to steal a close unanimous decision. It marked the only time Manuwa has ever placed his fate in the hands of the judges, but it worked just the same as the Englishman captured his fourth win in five UFC appearances.
"I was pretty sure I won all three rounds, but I don't know, I've never been to a judges' decision before so it was a new thing for me," Manuwa said.
"It meant a lot to me, because like I said before, I almost didn't make it to the fight. Jan is a tough, tough opponent. He hasn't lost in like eight years, and I'm glad I could come out with a win and I got three rounds."
Manuwa is currently the ninth-ranked light heavyweight in the UFC's media-generated rankings, and at 35 years old, his window for title contention is ever waning. So despite his shredded knee, Manuwa hopes to still stay busy in 2015.
"I'm going to get the injury sorted out straight after this," he said. "And then depending on the recovery time, I want to fight another two times this year, top-10 opponents."