It was supposed to have been a signature moment in Melvin Manhoef’s mixed martial arts career. He was in the Bellator 155 main event against Rafael Carvalho on May 20 in Boise, Idaho, the Bellator MMA middleweight championship up for grabs. Not much went right for Manhoef.
Typically an aggressive, in-your-face knockout machine, he fought cautiously against Carvalho. The Brazilian entered the cage on a 12-fight winning streak, having just upset Brandon Halsey for the 185-pound title. For whatever reason, Melvin Manhoef did not fight like Melvin Manhoef. He paid for it on the scorecards, losing a controversial split decision after five rounds. Looking back, the Dutch destroyer has zeroed in on what went wrong.
“If you look at all my fights, I always come hard and knock people out,” Manhoef told Sherdog.com. “I’ve always done that, but in that first fight, it wasn’t how I usually fight. Some people were complaining that I wasn’t myself, that I was too cautious, but I still won. With this fight, I’m going to go back to my usual self and put a lot of pressure on him. The fans want me to be [aggressive], so I will. That’s how I fight.”
Time has not healed Manhoef’s wounds.
“I’ve been getting madder and madder ever since,” he said. “I should have been crowned the champion, and I know I will be a great champion for [Bellator]. Everybody knows that. I come to have exciting fights and I fight for my fans; I always bring it. I am always going for the knockout because that’s what champions do -- true champions; and I am the true champion, and I want to be recognized as the true champion. It’s a pity what happened last time, and I have been so mad, but it is what it is. I know that I have to knock him out this time, and I look forward to finally being crowned the champion of one of the world’s biggest promotions.”
Manhoef remains puzzled by the verdict the judges rendered some 11 months ago (online sportsbooks).
“I really don’t know how that happened or what they were doing,” he said. “I was mad about it and we filed a complaint about it, but there was nothing that could be done. The head official told us that the decision was wrong, but since it was already made official, they couldn’t go back and change it. They admitted that they made the wrong decision, but they couldn’t turn it back. At least we got the rematch, and since I already beat him one time, I know I can do it a second time and that’s what I’m going to do. My name is already on that belt. Now, it’s just a matter of them actually giving it to me.”
The 40-year-old Manhoef will get his chance to right past wrongs when he challenges Carvalho for the middleweight crown in the Bellator 176 main event on Saturday in Torino, Italy. He anticipates a different outcome.
“What can I do differently? Knock him out,” Manhoef said. “That’s all I can do, and if I can’t, I’m just going to apply more pressure on him so there is no way the judges can give him the fight. I’m going to do everything more against him. If he’s going to strike, I’m going to strike 30 percent more. If he’s going to try and take me down, I’ll take him down. If he wants to pressure me, I’ll pressure him 30 percent more. It’s that simple. I won’t make mistakes by overcommitting, and I learned a lot of lessons from that last fight, that I can’t be too patient. I have already won the title and he knows that, so that’s what I am going to do again.”
Bad blood has begun to boil between champion and challenger. Carvalho has laughed off the claim that the decision in their first meeting was unjust.
“A true champion would say that he lost when he did, so there, you know what I feel about him,” Manhoef said. “If you are a champion, if you are a real man, you would admit that you lost. I would have admitted that I lost if I was him. I would say it was the wrong decision, but he didn’t. If he did that, I would have more respect for him, and to me, he’s not a true champion. You have to be a role model, to be the champion inside the ring and outside of it.”
Well aware that his resume lacks a major MMA championship, Manhoef wants a victory over Carvalho by any means necessary.
“I’ll do whatever it takes to win this belt,” he said. “If I knock him out in 10 seconds or 10 minutes, great. If it takes me winning a decision, great. Whatever it takes is what I will do. I will give all of my energy into this fight so I can win. If I knock him out, it will be a tremendous feeling. If I win on points, it will be a good feeling. If I win by submission, I’m going to be drunk the whole week, and I don’t even drink.”