Babajimi ‘Jimi’ Manuwa is a British mixed martial artist known for his brief and successful career in UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship). Like most self-made champions, he too came from a very difficult childhood which was full of loneliness and trysts with the law. The troubled kid was born in California and spent some time in Nigeria, before coming to London at the age of 10. Manuwa began his training for the sport in 2007 and made his ring debut on 26th July 2008 at FCFN 8 and won more than a dozen of his first matches, fighting in different promotions, winning UCMMA Lightweight championship in the process and defending it on more than half a dozen occasions. When he got signed on by the UFC, he was already one of the most fierce fighters in their rooster and although he lost a few of the crucial fights, he remained one of the most feared fighters and managed one ‘Fight of the Night’ honour and two ‘Performance of the Night’ bonuses. He presently stands at the #5 in the UFC Light Heavyweight rankings.
Childhood & Early Life
Jimi Manuwa was born in Sacramento region of California on February 18, 1980 to British and Scottish middle class parents. The family faced hardships in their USA stay after Jimi was born and hence, a move to Nigeria, Africa was made. When the family moved to London, Jimi was already 10 years old, and was a disturbed kid, who got in fights with fellow students in the school and strangers on the road. There was also a time when the family thought that he was mentally ill.
A troubled childhood led to a dangerous teenage, which was filled with some more random complications and troubles with the law. He was never good in studies and didn’t have any set direction for the future. He trained hard to become a physically strong man and also indulged in burglaries as a kid. He admitted in an interview that he used to shoplift, steal computers among many other things and justified his behaviour later by saying that like all the other kids in his neighbourhood, he wanted to earn money the easy way.
His troublesome activities and behaviour got him expelled from the school as well and he even got arrested quite a few times. He although felt a lot guilty about making it hard for his family to handle him and as the family constantly struggled with financial difficulties, he made sure that his family didn’t know about what he was up to. In 2002, Jimi was imprisoned for theft and was released a year later, and that was when he started thinking of a career in fighting after seeing one of his friend making loads of money fighting in a cage.
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By 2007, Jimi Manuwa was training very hard, looking at a potential career in weight lifting or wrestling. An injury he faced during one of those intense training sessions compelled Manuwa to start eyeing MMA as a profession and he became involved with UCMMA promotion. He was natural and it didn’t take him much time to become familiar with the fighting techniques and he registered a win against Tom King in his first match in 2008. In his fourth fight at the promotion against Ryan Robinson in February 2009, he won from him the UCMMA Light Heavyweight championship.
By then, Jimi hadn’t lost a single fight and upon winning the championship, he was well aware of the fact that winning a title isn’t enough; he now had to defend it against a plethora of fierce fighters. But Manuwa was no ordinary fighter, and he set the record for defending his title for the next five fights consecutively and he still holds the record to this date. When Ultimate Fighting Champion’s management heard of his existence in the ring, they offered him a contract.
For any other MMA fighter, it was a dream to fight in the UFC, but Manuwa was anything but like any other. He knew what it meant to be in UFC, and he declined the offer respectfully, stating the reason that he was not still ready to fight in the big league. BAMMA was another promotion that signed Manuwa on and he took the offer as it was a perfect final playground for Manuwa to practice in before making his grand entry at the UFC.
His undefeated streak remained intact and in July 2012, he finally joined UFC. His entry was highly anticipated due to his career history filled with some magnificent victories without any losses and in his debut against Kyle Kingsbury, on September 29th 2012, Manuwa showed that he meant some serious business and wasn’t someone to take lightly as he won the fight just in two rounds via knockout. Cyrille Diabate was the second UFC fighter who had to face Manuwa’s wrath and in the first round itself, Manuwa was declared winner with a knockout. In October 2013, Manuwa continued his winning streak defeating his third opponent Ryan Jimmo.
In March 2014, though, Manuwa faced the first professional loss of his career at the hands of Alexander Gustafsson but he gave his opponent a tough fight. The match was so intense that they both were awarded Fight of the Night bonus for the clash. When his next fight was announced, Manuwa pulled himself out of it owing to an injury and for a whole year, he was away from the ring. He eventually made his return to the UFC ring against Jan Blachowicz on 11th April 2015, where he was declared the winner by an anonymous decision.
Although he lost his next fight with Anthony Johnson in September 2015, it was reported that Manuwa was struggling from an undisclosed injury, which also led him to cancel his next scheduled fight, in which he was supposed to face Nikita Krylo. On his return in October 2016, he received his career’s first Performance of the Night bonus after defeating Ovince Preux in the second round. His deadly punches were now becoming a talk of the town, and so were his injuries. For a brief period of time, it was even getting reported that Manuwa might take a retirement from the ring for good.
But Manuwa proved the rumours wrong as he punched his opponent Corey Anderson to a knockout win on 18th March 2017 in the first round itself. This performance was almost certain to receive the Performance of the Night bonus, and he did manage to receive the honour, for the second time in his career. On 29th July 2017, in his final match until now, Manuwa fought against Volka Oezdemir, who knocked him out in the very first round. A very rare occurrence in the ring it was and the talks about Manuwa being not anymore a feared fighter were once again afloat.
Jimi Manuwa very openly talks about his troubled childhood and says that although that hard time made him stronger as a person, he wouldn’t want any kid to go through the same.
Manuwa opened Lion’s Pride MMA, the gym, in 2011 and provides world class training to the youngsters aspiring to make a career in the world of Mixed Martial Arts.
Manuwa also works closely with PETA in their pursuit of rehabilitating stray animals, and taking steps to save the endangered species.
Like most MMA fighters, Manuwa’s dating life hasn’t quite surfaced in the media, but he happens to be married to Nina Quaranta, the beautiful mother of four of his children.