Jimi Manuwa is in a tricky but good spot in his UFC career.
The No. 2 ranked light heavyweight is currently scheduled to take on top-five contender Volkan Oezdemir on the main card of UFC 214 on July 29. Conveniently enough, Daniel Cormier will defend his light heavyweight strap in the main event of the card against long-time rival and former champ Jon Jones. Prior to the Cormier-Jones booking, Manuwa was a solid candidate to challenge for the belt, but the UFC decided to go Jones. Despite not getting the crack at the champ, Manuwa remains optimistic that he’ll be fighting for the belt soon.
“I’m okay, I can’t argue with Jon Jones getting the fight,” Manuwa told Ariel Helwani on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour. “He’s one of the greatest fighters of all-time, like I said before. I believe I’ll knock Volkan out and Dana said I’ll get a title shot after that, so if one more person has to get it, then so be it.”
Although, UFC president Dana White told Manuwa he’ll be getting a shot at the belt with a win over Oezdemir, we’ve seen cases where the UFC has failed to fulfill promised title shots to contenders. And for Manuwa, this could possibly be bad news, as his training partner and No. 1 contender Alexander Gustafsson recently inserted his name in the title contention hat with an impressive win over Glover Teixeira last month. On top of that, Gustafsson also has history with both Jones and Cormier, having been at the short end of controversial decisions with both fighters. This makes Gustafsson a likely candidate to challenge for light heavyweight gold.
It’s unknown who’ll be fighting the winner of Cormier-Jones, but either way, Manuwa won’t let the UFC’s decision affect his relationship with Gustafsson.
“We both don’t really care who gets the title shot first,” Manuwa explained. “Alex I’d say he’s the best in the world and I’d be happy for him to get it, and I’d be happy to get it myself. We don't let that come in between us. We train together, help each other out, we’re friends and good sparring partners, so I don't really care who gets it. Obviously, I want it and he wants it, so whatever happens, happens.”
The future for Manuwa might still be up in the air, but before any title talk, Manuwa will have to focus on the task at hand and that’s his upcoming fight with Oezdemir.
“I have a very tough fight in Volkan and he’s looked impressive in his two fights,” Manuwa said. “He fought OSP [Ovince Saint Preux] and he just fought Misha Cirkunov, knocked him out in 28 seconds. So yeah, he's looked good in his two fights in the UFC, but I’m going to welcome him into the upper echelon of the division and show him what’s what.”