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Jimi Manuwa still fancies fight with ‘weirdo’ David Haye, says they could sell out the O2 in London

UFC 204 Media Day Photos Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

It wasn’t the power in his left hand that surprised people last Saturday when Jimi Manuwa downed Corey Anderson in the first round on UFC Fight Night 107’s main event. It was the name that popped up on his lips.

After scoring an emphatic main event victory in London, Manuwa said he wanted to either fight for a title in his next bout — or compete in a different sport.

“I want the winner of defending UFC champion Daniel Cormier and ‘Rumble’ [Anthony Johnson]," Manuwa said. “Or David Haye, let’s do this. Let’s make this happen.”

Cormier and Johnson will fight at UFC 210 for the light heavyweight title on April 8 in Buffalo, New York. The 37-year old Manuwa, —who has won consecutive bouts over Anderson and Ovince Saint Preux (second round knockout at UFC 204) — feels he has positioned himself into title contention. He believes he’s even ahead of beleaguered former champion Jon Jones, who is due to return from suspension in July.

Yet the curve ball call out was for Haye, his fellow Londoner who competes in the ring. Last Monday, Manuwa explained why he fancies a fight with the boxer.

“There’s no issue, but I think it would be a great fight,” he said during an appearance on The MMA Hour.Conor McGregor wants to fight Floyd Mayweather, why not put me against David Haye? David Haye is a big name in boxing, and he just lost to Tony Bellew.

“I’ll come to his world. We’ll do boxing. We’re two big names in London as well, and everything, I think why not?”

Manuwa, who said he didn’t have any amateur or professional boxing experience, is following a familiar theme in 2017. Current UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor is in the process of trying to put together a crossover mega-bout with undefeated boxing great Floyd Mayweather, which now feels like not so much a question of if by when.

Similarly, Manuwa said he and Haye could make for a big fight — at least locally in London, where both are huge names. He also expressed very little concern about meeting Haye on his own playground of boxing, rather than the reverse of meeting in a cage.

“[Haye] won’t last in MMA, because I’ll take him down and smash him,” he told Ariel Helwani. “I’ll come for his belt. I’ll come to his world. It’s a big money fight in London, we’ll sell out the O2 and that’ll make sense. We can go to Vegas [too]. We can go on the McGregor undercard. I heard Roy Jones wants to fight Anderson Silva as well. This is picking up momentum, let’s do this.”

Manuwa trains with a crop of known boxers, such as Isaac Chamberlain. He said he didn’t necessarily have a problem with Haye, but the encounters he’s had with him left a bad taste in his mouth.

“Yeah, I’ve seen him around — he’s a funny guy,” he said. “I don’t really…I’m not too fond of him. I haven’t got an issue with him, but I just think he’s a bit of a weirdo.

“I don’t know, it’s his funny hair and his funny attitude towards life and other fighters. And how he thinks he’s on this high pedestal when I don’t think he is, and I want to test his mettle.”

Manuwa said the two had been linked to an event not long ago in which Haye made some offhand comments that stuck.

“I remember me and him were going to do a training session for the media sort of thing, and I remember him saying to the PR that if he hits me hard he was going to knock [me] out,” he said. “And the training session didn’t happen.

“I haven’t got no issue with him. He is what he is, and that’s it. He’s in boxing and I’m in MMA, but I still think we should fight though.”

In the days after the interview, Haye himself surprised people by saying that the fight was being discussed, and that the UFC had contacted him.

“Yeah we have heard from Manuwa’s management and UFC so it is something that we are looking at at the moment,” Haye said during a Q&A. “Obviously it is a little way off being confirmed. But it is a fight that would unify a lot of the fans from both UFC and boxing and make a mega event.”

After the callout of Haye, many fans wondered why Manuwa was shooting for an older boxer rather than somebody like 24-year-old, undefeated British knockout artist Anthony Joshua.

“I don’t think Anthony Joshua would fight me,” he said. “You know, he’s got [Wladimir] Klitschko, he’s got [Deontay] Wilder on his agenda, he’s got all these other world beaters on his agenda. David Haye just lost a big fight to Tony Bellew, and I think we’d make a perfect match. And we’re about the same age as well. He’s had his career. He’s still a big name in boxing. He’s had his career, and I think it makes sense for him as well.”

Asked why the current trend is for mixed martial artists to crossover to the realm of boxing rather than boxers coming over to try MMA, Manuwa laid it out.

“Because we’re warriors,” he said. “We’re warriors. We’ll go to their turf. We’re the hardest, toughest working athletes in the world. We fear no one. We’ll come to boxing and do their thing. We do boxing. They don’t do MMA. They’re scared to do MMA.”

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