Jimi Manuwa propelled himself into the UFC title conversation with a vengeance on Saturday night in London, scoring the biggest win of his Octagon career with a one-punch, walk-off knockout of Corey Anderson in the main event of UFC Fight Night 107.
The impressive nature of the performance thrust Manuwa into the top tier of UFC light heavyweights, and afterward, the 37-year-old Brit seized the moment to call for his shot at the winner of the upcoming championship rematch between UFC titleholder Daniel Cormier and Anthony Johnson.
Cormier and Johnson and slated to meet with the UFC light heavyweight strap on the line on April 8 at UFC 210. But another option looms on the periphery of the division for Manuwa, and that is Jon Jones, the suspended ex-champion who is currently serving a one-year suspension for a failed USADA test stemming back to UFC 200.
Jones’ suspension runs until July 2017, meaning the former light heavyweight king could be a viable option for Manuwa’s next fight, if either party wanted it. But Manuwa isn’t interested.
“I’m not interested in Jon Jones. Jon Jones takes steroids and now he’s been banned for steroids,” Manuwa said at Saturday’s post-fight press conference. “Before, I was a big fan of Jon Jones, the things he’s done in the Octagon and everything, but he’s been suspended for a year or something and he’s had issues before. He’s a great fighter. I greatly respect him, but he’s been banned for steroids and that taints everything that he’s done. So, I’m not really interested. When he comes back, I’ll fight him, no problem. But I’m focused on the belt right now, and that’s going to be the winner of DC and ‘Rumble’ Johnson.”
Jones tested positive for two banned substances last July — the anti-estrogen agents clomiphene and Letrozol — in an out-of-competition drug test conducted by USADA ahead of UFC 200, which ultimately led to Jones being pulled from the bicentennial event just days before it was set to take place. Jones claimed the failed test was the result of a contaminated sexual-performance pill — a claim which was confirmed by USADA in a subsequent arbitration case — however the incident was only the latest in a long line of troubling episodes that derailed Jones’ once-legendary career.
Nonetheless, Jones remains widely considered to be the greatest light heavyweight to ever compete in the history of sport and is one of the top pound-for-pound fighters alive today, if not the current No. 1. So even Manuwa knows that a very real possibility exists that Jones could leapfrog the queue at 205 pounds and contend for the title in his comeback fight, if the UFC owners at WME-IMG were so inclined.
“Possibly, but to me, whatever happens, happens,” Manuwa said. “I will be fighting the elite fighters in the world, and I don’t know, we’ll see what happens. He’s back in July or something. [Cormier and Johnson] are fighting next month, so the fight could be made before he comes back anyway, so we’ll see what happens. I’m going to fly to Vegas to meet with (UFC president) Dana (White) after this and we’ll see what happens.”
Manuwa came into Saturday night ranked No. 4 in the UFC’s media-generated rankings, and he certainly helped validate that ranking with his three-minute destruction of Anderson. The bonus-winning performance gave Manuwa back-to-back highlight-reel knockouts since his Sept. 2015 loss to Johnson, and Manuwa reiterated several times that he is a changed fighter since the first time he squared off against “Rumble.”
“Me and ‘Rumble’ Johnson are two of the hardest hitters and the most exciting fighters in the light heavyweight division, and I’d love to get a rematch with him to avenge my loss,” Manuwa said. “Because I made some silly mistakes with my weight and my striking as well. So, I’d like to avenge that loss against the most feared man probably on the UFC roster in ‘Rumble’ Johnson.
“But then again, DC is a great champion. He’s feared, and he’s beat the guy I’m talking about, he’s beat Alex (Gustafsson), he’s beat a lot of guys in the division. So I’d like to fight him as well.”
That being said, Manuwa also said that he isn’t one to turn down fights, so if the UFC decides to pair him up against Jones before giving him a shot at the title, then he will gladly do what is asked of him.
“Listen, I don’t turn down anybody,” Manuwa said. “I’m not scared of anybody. Everyone bleeds. Everyone feels pain. And I’ve proven through my career that I’m not scared to fight anybody, because it’s mixed martial arts. Everyone feels pain, everyone bleeds the same, except if you’re out taking steroids. That’s what I’ve got a problem with. So it is what it is. I’ll fight Jon Jones, no problem.”