First, Manfio replaced Olivier Aubin-Mercier and defeated Joilton Lutterbach via split decision in April. He earned three points, but was still treated as a replacement. When cards got shuffled again, Manfio was paired up against teammate Natan Schulte, who also happens to be the godfather of his daughter.
Fortunately for him, Pettis fell ill and was forced out of PFL 4 earlier this month, meaning Manfio would be paired up against the former UFC and WEC champion instead of facing a close friend, who fought and beat Alex Martinez.
“That’s the fight I’ve asked for since the beginning,” Manfio said in an interview with MMA Fighting. “[Fights] are always tough. If it has to be tough, make the reward bigger. I want his head now.”
That doesn’t mean Manfio considers Pettis to be the toughest challenge in the PFL roster. He names Schulte the most complicated matchup style-wise, especially with “Showtime” Pettis in need for a stoppage to secure extra points and guarantee a spot in the playoffs.
“He needs to finish this fight quickly, and I’m a counter striker in 70 percent of my fights, so he will be forced to play my game,” Manfio said. “I’ll walk forward and put pressure and counter his attacks. I’ll invite him to a workout session. Let’s see who has better conditioning. If this fight goes the distance, I want to be exhausted in the end, but he’ll be dead. He won’t be able to raise his hands because I’ll push the pace the entire time. I’m betting on my superior conditioning to take him out of his comfort zone.
“I’m a fan of his, really. He’s an extraordinary athlete, he can create anything at any moment, he’s super dangerous up until the last minute of the fight, so we came prepared knowing of the risks and his speed and creativity. [I will] slow him down and do the right game, just like Rafael dos Anjos did. Don’t give him any respect and attack the entire time.”
The PFL talent doesn’t mind revealing his strategy either.
“It’s no secret,” he said. “Like, ‘Oh, I can’t say my strategy.’ No, he might know what I’m going to do. The thing if my conditioning, who can push the pace more, because I’m going there to finish it before the end of the second round. I’ll knock him out before the second round is over. Write that down. People will call me prophet.”
“A new MMA star will arrive after this fight,” he continued. “I’m carrying no extra weight over my shoulders for this fight even though I know it’s the biggest fight of my career up until now, bigger things will come. I respect him a lot, I’m a big fan, but I want what he has. He’s going downhill and I’m going up. This is my moment. I’m in my prime and I believe I’ll knock him out before the second round is over.”