Melvin “No Mercy” Manhoef prepares to make his Strikeforce debut this Saturday at Strikeforce: Miami when he faces “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler. It is his first fight in the United States in over two and a half years, and Manhoef recently told FightLine.com that he is happy to be back in the States.
“It’s nice to be back in America, you know? It’s pretty awesome to fight in America,” Manhoef stated.
The 33 year old, who hails from Amsterdam, Netherlands, comes to Strikeforce after fighting his last nine MMA fights in Japan. Since 2005, he has only lost four of twenty-two fights, losing all four via submission. He is the first one to admit that his ground game is not his strong suit.
“My ground game is so-so,” he admits. He noted that he is working on his ground game and hopes to improve. “I hope my ground game will be better, but we will see. I know that he [Lawler] has the wrestling background, so he can take me down also. Everyone knows that my ground game… it isn’t so good, but it’s getting better already.”
When he’s not fighting in MMA, Manhoef also is a top K-1 fighter, with a 37-8 record. Despite his success in both sports, he admits that it’s not easy.
“It’s really difficult,” he said of balancing MMA and kickboxing. “People think that it’s easy, but it’s really difficult.
“K-1 is fighting fast, you know? It’s action and reaction, you cannot rest, you have to continue. With MMA you can do a lot of things which you cannot do with kickboxing.”
While he switches between the two sports, he admits to not having a preference, saying, “really I like both. To choose, it’s like choosing who you like more, your mother or your father. I cannot choose. If I’m busy with MMA, I like MMA more, but if I’m busy with K-1, I like it more.”
Manhoef has been training for his bout with Lawler at American Top Team. Mike’s Gym in Amsterdam, which Manhoef calls home, burned down to the ground last November before he faced Kazuo Misaki on New Year’s Eve. Manhoef remembers having a hard time preparing for Misaki due to his gym burning down, but will be prepared for Saturday’s fight.
“The whole team at ATT is working hard to get me prepared,” he noted. “We had a hard time training for Misaki because our gym burned down and we couldn’t train. But I feel pretty good now.”
Despite not being able to train properly for his fight with Misaki, Manhoef found himself with his hand raised in less than three minutes.
“We were glad because we couldn’t train as hard for that fight,” he recalled. “After our gym burned down, when I came home, I couldn’t train. I didn’t have ground guys, I didn’t have a gym. One week before we went to Japan, my trainer said we’re only going to try three things and that we’re going to train on those three things. You’re going to have to do those in the fight and nothing else. The first thing [that we worked on] didn’t go, but the second one did.”
Manhoef turned his attention to top-ranked middleweight Lawler, whom he faces this Saturday.
“He’s a good fighter, it’s going to be a hard fight,” said Manhoef. “It’s going to be a very exciting fight because he’s a brawler and I like to stand up and trade.
“I’m pretty comfortable with my stand-up since I’m fighting K-1 and he’s only fighting MMA, so my stand up should be a little better,” he continued. “He’s still a brawler, but MMA and K-1 are really different. I don’t want to say that my ground game is better than his. I want to fight and I’ll do my talking in the ring.”
When asked how he saw the fight going down this Saturday, Manhoef didn’t have any concrete predictions.
“My prediction is that I want to win the fight,” he said. “[But] you can never have a prediction for a fight. Maybe I want to bang with him and he’s shooting me and I cannot get up because his wrestling game is too good. Or maybe I’ll kick him in the head and – BANG – he goes down, so anything can happen in this fight.
“Robbie’s a fighter, he comes out for fighting and I’m a fighter, I also come out to fight. When you got two guys who come out to fight, you’re going to have a great fight. Me and Robbie will put on a great show together.”
Strikeforce: Miami takes place this Saturday, January 30, 2010 from the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, FL and will air live on Showtime.