After over two years away from the Bellator cage, Norbert Novenyi Jr. is ready to make up for lost time.
The undefeated prospect returns to action for the first time since October 2020 when he faces 35-fight veteran Andy Manzolo this Saturday at Bellator 291 in Dublin. Novenyi was booked to compete at Bellator 270 in November 2021, but a torn ACL forced him out of the bout, and on the sidelines, which led to a lot of frustration.
“I couldn’t even walk,” Novenyi told MMA Fighting. “I got myself to the gym, hopped into the gym, did my cardio seated, or just literally sat down in front of the mirror and [threw punches] for an hour, then a trip to another gym to lift weights.
“I’m not going to lie, I did have moments where I was going to my coaches, even my parents, I was like crying, not crying but tearing up, saying, ‘I don’t know what I’m doing.’ I don’t know because I love this sport so much, but it was just so hard. I just kept pushing through and now I’m here and I’m ready to crush someone. It’ll be great to break someone’s face.”
Novenyi began his Bellator run with four straight wins, three by submission, and created a lot of buzz for himself. The 23-year-old knew he had to recover from his injury, but once he was cleared to begin training full time, getting back in the swing of things while waiting for a contract to come his way was tougher on him than the torn ACL recovery.
“The worst part was once I got back to training fully, I’m still not fighting,” Norvenyi said. “I’m still feeling rough and I’m still hurting myself and all that kind of stuff. And that was rough to keep that motivation because I’m back now. I’m now training 10 hours a day, and I’m still not fighting, I still don’t have a fight, and that was the hardest part. I actually found that harder than the injuries.”
Manzolo will enter the Bellator cage for the third time as he looks for his first promotional win. The 38-year-old has 23 finishes over his 26 pro wins, and comes into the matchup as a sizable underdog.
Novenyi understands that he’s facing his most experienced opponent, but stylistically, he believes this is the perfect matchup to come back to.
“It’s a good match up for me, I hope he comes forward — comes forward straight into my right hand and goes to sleep after,” Norvenyi explained. “I’m just looking forward to getting in there. He’s had 35 fights. He’s got a decent record, black belt in jiu-jitsu, black belt in judo. I’m sorry, but my wrestling is better than his judo and I just don’t see his striking to be anywhere near mine. So I’m really confident in my skill set, and the one thing that I know [is that] I’ll work harder than everyone.
“I know because I go to sleep frustrated that someone might be able to beat me, that someone might do better than me. I wake up in the middle of the night and I’m like, ‘Jesus Christ.’ I get angry when someone might be better than me. So I need to make sure that I’m out working everyone and I try to do that every single day.”