Raush Manfio’s road to the Titan FC lightweight championship was far from easy.
A 26-year-old talent from Porto Alegre, Brazil, Manfio is 5-1 under the Titan FC banner, including a trio of knockouts. But watching him shine inside the cage gets even more impressive after you find out what he had to go through to get there.
Manfio was one of the lightweights selected to be on the fourth edition of The Ultimate Fighter Brazil in 2015. It was the first time that a TUF Brazil season would be taped in Las Vegas instead of Sao Paulo, and he was excited to make the trip to Nevada and compete.
Things didn’t go his way though.
Manfio took on Glaico Franca in one of the preliminary bouts and lost via second-round submission to the man who would eventually win the whole tournament.
”The result wasn’t what we expected,” Manfio says. “I came back thinking, ‘OK, I’m a TUF veteran now, I’ll use this to promote myself and get fights in Brazil now since that result wasn’t official and wouldn’t be on my record.’”
Being a TUF veteran generally is a great thing in Brazil since local promotions will pay you better than average and use you as headliner after you had your face on network television. That wasn’t the case with Manfio though, who had no opportunities after the reality show.
Manfio decided to make some changes and try to get things going again, and was invited to train at American Top Team with the help of MMA veteran Carlos Barreto, a longtime friend of ATT leader Conan Silveira. A few days later, a man used to bad news received some fantastic news from one of his friends.
”When I decided to come to the U.S., a friend of mine said that one of his friends, a rich businessman, would sponsor me,” Manfio says. “I told him I’d need from $1,500 to $2,000 dollars per month to live in the U.S., and he said it would work.
“I was so happy, I couldn’t believe it.”
Manfio needed some of the cash in advance to buy a flight ticket, but it was taking awhile before the money was actually deposited to his account. American Top Team was waiting for him to arrive but he had no money to pay for the trip.
“Three months later, my father told me he would help me with some money and I should just go to the U.S. and start training, so I went,” Manfio says. “As soon as I got there, I found out that the sponsorship story wasn’t true. I went after the businessman and he said he had no idea what I was talking about. We found out that our friend was mentally ill, and he created that whole story.”
The young Brazilian talent had no money to live and train in the U.S., and no contracts, so he decided to leave.
But Manfio was living in one of the apartments that ATT had for athletes, and had become friends with Adriano Moraes. The ONE Championship fighter had just lost his flyweight title to Kairat Akhmetov a few months before, and was already scheduled to return against Eugene Toquero in March 2016.
”His coaches had some problems and he had no one to go with him to his next fight,” Manfio says. “I was literally walking by when he was on the phone with the person buying his flight tickets, and he asked if I wanted to go with him and be in his corner.
”I had never been to Asia before, so sure, let’s do this. In my mind, that’s exactly what I needed. I’ll make this trip, be in his corner, and maybe the immigration won’t let me enter the U.S. again because of my visa and I’ll be deported to Brazil. If everything goes wrong, I’m going back home to my wife. If everything goes right, I had this experience in Asia. But I was confident I’d be deported, and I wanted to go back home. I didn’t even have a manager anymore.”
Moraes got the job done against Toquero, winning via submission with seven seconds left in the opening round, and the experience lit the fire in Manfio again. Moraes’ manager Alex Davis called Manfio to thank him for everything he had done for Moraes in Myanmar — then made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.
”You took care of Adriano, and now I’m going to take care of you. There’s a fight at Titan FC in 50 days, if you want to take it,” David told Manfio at the time.
It was the opportunity Manfio needed.
It was a 150-pound catchweight bout against Luis Zequeira at Titan FC 39, and Manfio had a little over than 15 pounds to cut. He started his diet on his flight back to Florida, but eventually realized that he would probably get deported from the country.
“I went to Asia hoping to get deported so I would see my wife again, and now I was shaking with this possibility,” Manfio says with a laugh, “but they gave me another six months as a tourist.”
Manfio made weight and was ready to fight, but it would never be that easy for him.
”We checked our GPS and (BankUnited Center) was 50 minutes away from home, but the event was on a Friday night in Miami, and we had no idea how bad traffic was,” Manfio says. “We were 90 minutes late, and they were already calling me to fight when I got to the venue. I only had time to go to the bathroom to take a dump and put my shorts on [laughs]. I literally kicked pads twice and my coach said, ‘OK, you’re ready.’ We both knew I wasn’t ready, I wasn’t warmed up, but it was time to fight.”
Manfio “couldn’t do sh*t in the first round,” but landed a beautiful knee in the second round to get the knockout victory. “That knee changed everything for me,” he says.
The American Top Team product added another TKO victory to his record three months later, and once again thought he was close to going to the UFC.
“They said that one more win and I’d go to the UFC, since I had good fights in Titan FC, and I was super confident,” Manfio says. “I was told that a sponsor would give me some money as well, and all I thought about was finally seeing my wife again, but I put on a bad fight and lost a decision. The money I was supposed to get, I only got 15 percent of it, which was enough to pay my expenses and that’s it.”
Manfio needed more money to pay for his work visa, and decided to find a job outside of the MMA business. One of his friends had a construction company and was willing to give him a job despite the fact that he had zero experience. All he needed was a truck, and Conan Silveira sold him one. Manfio couldn’t pay more than $1,500 in a car, but Silveira agreed to sell it.
”I couldn’t stop thinking, ‘Why didn’t I tell him I only had 1,000?’” Manfio says with a laughs. “I thought he was going to help me find a truck, but he had one in the gym and they wanted to get rid of it, so I paid a symbolic value and it was mine, and this truck helped me work with construction.”
Manfio worked for 91 days, only taking a break on Sunday’s to go to church, and finally had enough money to pay for his visa. He went back to the gym to train, then returned to the Titan FC cage to defeat Martin Brown and earn a shot at the lightweight championship.
“Cavalo de Guerra” — “War Horse” in Portuguese — stopped Chazz Walton in the opening round at Titan FC 46 in Nov. 2017 to capture gold, then successfully defended it with a five-round decision victory over Lee Henry Lilly in February.
”I came to the U.S. and all I wanted was to go back because I had no money, no job, no sponsors, but I became more mature since I got here,” Manfio says. “Thank God, a lot of doors opened for me in the last minute. I was in the right place at the right time. At least I had the courage to take the first step.”
With a 9-2 MMA record, a championship title in Titan FC, and his wife pregnant, Manfio has big goals set for his future as he puts his title on the line at Friday's Titan FC 50, facing Sidney Outlaw on June 29.
”My goal is to go to the UFC," Manfio said. "There’s also that PFL million-dollar tournament, there’s also Bellator. I’m mature enough to make this decision now.”