Manel Kape isn’t lacking in confidence.
The RIZIN star, who awaits his UFC debut after joining the promotion in March, made a major splash in Japan with finishes of the highly-touted Kai Asakura and veterans Takeya Mizugaki and Ian McCall. Kape, 26, was scheduled to make his first walk to the octagon at UFC 252 in August, but opponent Rogerio Bontorin withdrew due to an injury.
Unfortunately for Kape, he suffered his own bad break, injuring ligaments in his ankle that will keep him out of action for at least another month. He broke the news on MMA Fighting’s What The Heck show and elaborated on the difficulties he’s faced getting that first UFC appearance on the books.
“I heard the news that Rogerio can’t fight, he had an injury,” Kape said. “My manager and UFC tried to find a new opponent, and this opponent should be (Jussier) Formiga, for fight against me, but he don’t accept the fight. We tried to fight with (Alexandre) Pantoja too, but I have an injury too.
“I broke my ligaments. Full ligaments, and I had another in the ligaments, so I tried training like that and then it became worse. I came to the hospital for an MRI, they said stop training for one month, the doctors said don’t do nothing, it will be worse if you do something again. I was keeping my training because I really want to show my potential, show my skills, and forget the pain. But they say stop for one month, so now no fight, 100 percent.”
Kape admitted that he experienced some frustration when his injury was first diagnosed, but said that he can’t recall the last time he entered a fight fully healthy. Mindful of what his doctors have told him, Kape is eyeing a bout in October.
As for who he’ll face, Kape wants only top-ranked opponents, with his sights set squarely on recently crowned flyweight king Deiveson Figueiredo. Kape has watched Figueiredo closely, and he sees holes in the champion’s game.
“I saw some mistakes from Deiveson,” Kape said. “You can see that he’s confident with his strikes, jiu-jitsu, but he don’t have cardio. I don’t know if it’s the weight cut, he cut too much weight, but you can see he becomes tired very early. If he fight against me, that my cardio starts to go up every round, it will not be good for him. He don’t really like staying in the same octagon with me, because I will let him work in the first round, but second round, 100 percent that I will smash him like I want. He needs to work more on this, because I’m coming.
“You need to work more your cardio, try to train your speed, because I saw my game. I can see that—It’s not to disrespect any fighter, but I can be a champion very easy in this division. Very easy, believe me.”
That Figueiredo bout isn’t likely to come anytime soon with contenders like Alex Perez, Brandon Moreno, and Askar Askarov having fought their way to the front of the line, but Kape was open to another big name opponent when it was suggested to him: former UFC bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt.
Garbrandt has said in several interviews that he plans to drop down to the 125-pound division, initially with the hopes of facing longtime champion Demetrious Johnson. Following a highlight-reel knockout of Raphael Assuncao in June, “No Love” sees himself as a candidate to change weight classes and challenge for the flyweight title by year’s end.
Kape welcomes not only the talent that Garbrandt could bring to the division, but the opportunity to possibly take out Garbrandt himself.
“It will be good to have Cody Garbrandt in the 125 division, because he’s the former bantamweight champion and this gives some motivation, you know?” Kape said. “I like fighting with big dogs. The first time that I will make my debut, I don’t know, I talked with my manager and they want to give me some easy fight. I say, I come here, I don’t accept any fight if he’s not someone in the top-five. I come here to make my career, to be a champion.
“I’m a world champion, I know my potential, I know my skills, and I can see in 125 division not having nobody better than me. And if Cody Garbrandt comes to 125, it will be good. This will give me extra motivation for fight against him. I saw his fight, he’s a tough guy, but just have this, he’s just tough. In this game, you need to have more, not just be tough. He’s not smart, you can see, his work is emotional. … I’m more complete than him, and all the respect that I saw that he don’t have, it will be good. I’m excited.”