Manning Up

Jun 11, 2008
There is only one defeat on Ronnie Mann (Pictures)'s record.

The Team Trojan standout, 14-1-1, suffered his first loss last July when he challenged Robbie Olivier (Pictures) for the Cage Rage British featherweight title. Renewed by the humbling experience, the young, well-rounded fighter has since bounced back with three quick victories.

Now he finds himself right back in the mix of the United Kingdom's top contenders.

One of his recent wins was an impressive unanimous decision over tough Frenchman Frederic Fernandez (Pictures). Mann was dominant throughout the three rounds of action, showing a new facet to his game by repeatedly shooting on his cornered opponent and scoring with a series of lightening-fast double-leg takedowns.

Even after such a dominant win, the ever-improving featherweight was eager to pick holes in his own performance.

"I was probably a little too wary of what he could do," Mann said. "I should have been a little more aggressive perhaps and not so careful, but you have to play it like you see it at the time. I believe this fight showed a different side to my style of fighting -- i.e. my wrestling, ground-and-pound game."

From top position Mann controlled the tricky Fernandez on the floor and soon opened a nasty gash over his left eye with a series of hard right hands. With such a convincing win against a capable European opponent under his belt, Mann once again appears on the cusp of challenging for the Cage Rage British featherweight title.

Looking back on his first meeting with British champion Robbie Olivier (Pictures), Mann appeared determined to learn from the first and only defeat of his 19-fight career.

"I learnt a great deal," he said. "One of the main things was to make sure I am properly prepared for a fight, not just physically but mentally as well. Even though I was physically fit for the fight, I was unsettled by the big occasion -- cameras in my face, that sort of thing. As a consequence I fought the wrong game and lost fair and square. I have done quite a few things to deal with that aspect of my game and feel that a rematch would be a different story."

Trojan head coach Charlie Joseph, the architect of Mann's unique skill set, agreed fervently with his star pupil's assessment.

"He has grown in confidence, and I think a rematch would pan out differently," Joseph said. "He has also developed skill wise, and I think he would bring more to the table."

Joseph is considered one of the United Kingdom's finest trainers. He has enjoyed an influx of new faces at his Cheltenham gym over recent years while the reputation of the Trojan camp has spread. Even as the training group expands, the former Foreign Legionnaire still has time to focus on the development of his star student.

"There are some people who are really slow learners, and it can be frustrating having to go over things again and again," he said. "But when you have a fighter who picks things up instantly, a fighter who can use those skills in the mix, it's great.

"He can go all the way," Joseph said of Mann. "He has all the tools, and we have the contacts to get him there. I think his development thus far has been at the correct pace, and he is now ready to take the next step up. I am certain that his time is drawing near and that he will soon be making waves on the international stage. If anyone deserves success, it's him."

However, for the moment Mann has dedicated himself to churning through the current crop of featherweights on the U.K. scene.

"I would like to fight Brad Pickett (Pictures), as this is a fight people have been asking for for some time," Mann said. "I think he is a much-improved fighter and I reckon it would be an entertaining fight."

No stranger to exciting battles, the young warrior looked back at one of the most talked-about fights on U.K. soil: his encounter with Pancrase London fighter Ashleigh Grimshaw (Pictures) at the inaugural Cage Rage Contenders show in May 2006. Mann considers the bout to have been his toughest, especially after suffering an agonizing low blow early.

"The damage was caused by the edge of the groin guard squashing one of my ... well, you can probably guess. It was agony, and I couldn't get going after that," Mann explained. "Ashleigh being the fighter he is, strong and determined, pushed the pace and so it was a real challenge to get through it."

The now-defunct open guard rule allowed the fighters to stomp on each other enthusiastically during the three-round war, which ended as a draw despite the Trojan fighter feeling that he got the better of the opening two rounds.

"I did nearly finish the fight twice," Mann pointed out. "In the first round with a knockdown and second with a triangle choke, but Ashleigh is really tough and he came back strong in the third -- tough fight."

Following in the footsteps of teammates James Thompson (Pictures) and Zelg Galesic (Pictures), Mann also made his way to Japan recently, though only to corner the talented Croatian middleweight for his bout in the Dream middleweight tournament.

"Zelg is a great guy, and so it was a fun experience," Mann said. "I got to meet some interesting people and look at how things are done on the big international shows. It helps prepare you for such an event, so it was worthwhile on many levels."

Galesic brushed aside the challenge of tough Russian Thai boxer Magomed Sultanakhmedov (Pictures) in the first round of the tournament, submitting him with an armbar in 1:40. Sherdog.com asked Mann how he felt his teammate would fare in the tournament, which resumes Sunday and includes the likes of Kazushi Sakuraba (Pictures), Jason Miller and grappling legend Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza.

"I suppose it depends on matching," Mann replied. "But Zelg has a good chance. Besides him, I think ‘Jacare' may be the surprise of the batch."

As for James Thompson (Pictures), Mann is less supportive. In need of a wider variety of heavyweight training partners, the Pride veteran traveled across the pond and has now settled down in Las Vegas.

Thompson's understandable yet wholly unexpected move has clearly left a bitter taste in the mouth of his former teammate.

"I don't want to slag James off, as with me he has always been OK, but he did handle things badly," Mann said. "No one in the team knew what he was up to until we read it on the Internet. He should have been more up front but chose to do things in an underhanded manner. I can only say that my respect for him isn't quite what it was."
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