This is a guest post by Stephie "Crooklyn" Daniels. Follow Stephie on Twitter @CrooklynMMA.
Melvin Manhoef is on a mission to help break ONE FC into the mainstream, and in the process, gain a much needed win for himself. With the last two and a half years having been fruitless, he's more focused than ever on preparation for his upcoming bout with DEEP champion, Yoshiyuki Nakanishi on March 31. I had the opportunity to interview Melvin recently, and got his thoughts on fighting under the ONE FC banner, training camp and what's in store for the future. Several fans contributed questions, and he was gracious enough to answer those, as well.
SD: ONE FC has been making quite a name for themselves in Asia due to mega deals with other promotions and ESPN Star Sports, as well as good financial backing. How excited are you to have inked a deal with them?
MM: Yeah, it's going to be a new home for me. That's why I'm very excited to fight and let all the fans see that I'm back. I'm going to take this opportunity to help build ONE FC get very great exposure, because I'm going to deliver a good fight.
SD: You're facing a DEEP champion in Nakanishi. What do you think his biggest weapon will be and what will your biggest weapon be?
MM: I searched a lot on the internet, but I couldn't find many fights of my opponent. It was very hard to find good fights so I could see how his style is. I know that he's a sambo guy, and he's southpaw, and his submission game is good and his punches are good. He's a well rounded fighter. I do my homework 200%, so I'm prepared for everything.
SD: It's clear that you have been putting in some work to improve your ground game. Who have you been training with on this?
MM: Remco Pardoel, Danny [no last name given] and a lot of guys that I'm working on the ground with. Maybe next year, or later this year, I'm going to America to train with the guys there. My ground game is getting better and better every day. I didn't fight for like one year in MMA, so it's a little bit hard to shake the ring rust, but it's going OK.
SD: When you mentioned coming to America to train, which camps are you particularly interested in?
MM: I have contact with JZ (Cavalcante) and all those guys, so maybe I'm going to the Blackzillians, or maybe I'm going to train with Anderson Silva and Roger and the guys there at Blackhouse. I don't know yet, but I do have the opportunity to train with these guys, and it's good for my development, I think. Maybe I can go to both camps [laughs]. I will do that.
SD: ONE FC has a unique ruleset, in that they mix the unified rules with PRIDE rules. Do you like these rules and do you think they will be advantageous to you?
MM: Yeah, I like the PRIDE rules. When I started MMA, I was watching PRIDE all the time. Soccer kicks, and Wanderlei Silva and all the guys...they were pretty awesome. I've never fought with those rules, so for me, I like this. The harder it gets, the better it goes. This is what they signed me for. This is what I have to do. I'm prepared, and every fighter that comes in the ring, I have deep respect for, but when I come in, it's to make war.
SD: Is your contract with ONE FC open ended so that you can fight in other organizations?
MH: Yeah, it's possible. I have good contact with Victor (Cui). We have openings to fight in America, so it's no problem. Before I think about those fights, I want to make ONE FC my first priority. For me, it's priority number one, to have good fights with them, and help them build up to where they're as big as the UFC. I want to help them do that. I'm going to do everything in my power to deliver good fights.
SD: You recently signed with K-1 again. Can you give us some idea of when you'll be fighting for them and/or how many fights you're signed to?
MM: I know that everything is going great for them now, and I recently signed with them again. Maybe I'm going to fight three fights for them in one year, but we don't know for sure, because I have to see first, and then we can discuss this a little bit further. Everybody is saying, 'They're back, they're back' but they didn't give a show yet, and we have to see if they can pay us again. I hope so because it's a good thing for all fighters. I think it's a great sport. We will see.
SD: What are your thoughts about Badr Hari leaving K-1? How do you think he'll do in boxing?
MM: It's a shame for K-1, and for the people that like the stand-up fights, but it's a positive thing for heavyweight boxing. If he puts his mind to it, and he brings the same thing to boxing as he did in kickboxing, I think America will love him. He's a guy who likes to fight. He likes to brawl. He's like a real badass. I think boxing needs that nowadays, in the heavyweight (division). The Klitschkos aren't like Mike Tyson or Evander Holyfield and those kind of guys. They were fantastic, you know?
SD: There are rumors flying that Remy Bonjasky is coming out of retirement. That's a win that you have sought for a long time. Have you heard anything on this, and would that fight interest you for your first fight back in K-1?
MM: That is true that he is coming back. I'm not glad that he's coming back, because he's an ass [laughs]. No, I'm joking. I heard that he's coming back, and for the people that like Remy, he's a great fighter. He achieved a lot of things in K-1, and he's the three time champion of K-1. For the K-1 fans, it's a very positive thing. I hope he does come back so I can fight him again. I fought him three times, and I didn't win three times, but the last time, I felt that they made the wrong decision, but I can't get that back.
SD: You fared much better than most people thought you would in your fight with Tyrone Spong. Would you like a rematch with him?
MM: Yeah, that was my first fight in a year. I asked my management to get me another fight first, to get out the ring rust before I fought Tyrone, but it wasn't possible. I took the fight because I had been away for too long. I was prepared very well. I had a new trainer and a new team with me. They were preparing me fairly good and only a little bit of the ring rust was there. The second attack, I was missing a little bit, but I hope it will come back in this fight. I think everyone better prepare themselves when I get back to 100%.
SD: What fight stands out in your memory the most?
MM: Sakuraba, Cyborg and also Mark Hunt because I knocked him out in 17 seconds. Sakuraba, I knocked out. Even the fight with Cyborg, it was a hard fight. Those three fights are really in my memories.
SD: What do you think of Mark Hunt's recent success in the UFC?
MM: Yeah, it's great. It's awesome. What can I say? I knocked him out. I hope he wins the UFC championship belt so I can say I knocked out the UFC champion [laughs].
SD: You're coming up on your 36th birthday. How long do you think you'll continue fighting?
MM: With my new team, I think I can extend my fight career for 3 or 4 years more. I'm taking good care of my body now and have a new physical therapist. He's one of the most famous guys in Holland. He took care of a lot of famous soccer players like Maradona, and those kind of guys. He's helping me to get myself fit again. He is explaining to me what to do to extend my fighting career. If it's going to help, then maybe people can enjoy my fighting for three or four more years.
SD: What does Mike tell you during your entrances to get you all amped up?
MM: It's a little bit of a secret [laughs]. He's hyping me up and telling me that I'm the best, and those kinds of things. You can call it like a pep talk.
SD: What are your hopes for your son, Million?
MM: He has to do what he wants to do, you know? He'll be a success at whatever he does. He doesn't have to be fighting. He's also a good soccer player. I hope the best for him and that he can achieve a lot of things. I hope he achieves what I didn't achieve, whether it's soccer or fighting or something else.
SD: What is your most meaningful tattoo?
MM: The tattoos of my kids, and then the ones of my knockouts.
SD: What is your favorite food to eat after your fights?
MM: [laughs] Normally, when I'm cutting weight, it's like, I'm going straight to the McDonald's or something like this, but now I don't have to cut so much. Maybe some Suriname food, like a roti or something.
SD: What happened to the gladiator kilt that you used to wear?
MM: It tore in a fight, on the left side. The whole gladiator skirt tore into like four pieces. I couldn't wear it anymore, so that's why I don't wear it, but if the people like it, I'll get a new one, and I'm going to wear this one for the fans.
SD: If you could fight anyone, be it in K-1 or MMA, who would it be?
MM: I would choose a lot of guys. I cannot choose just one. I'd like to fight Wanderlei Silva, because he was one of my idols. Before I started, he was like the main guy. The guys that I lost to. Maybe Musashi and Paulo Filho. Maybe Robbie Lawler because I have something to make up with him.
SD: You almost had him.
MM: Almost doesn't count. He won the fight, and we are men. I have to take my losses like a man. Next time it could be different. You cannot take your glance off his win, because he caught me fair and square. Next time he's mine.
This was the second time I was able to interview Melvin. Both times he was very accommodating, and genuinely seems to enjoy interacting with the media and his fans. When I called, I was interrupting a massage therapy session after training, yet he still made room for me. Hopefully, his upcoming bout will garner a win for him, but if it doesn't, he still has a lifelong fan in me.
Follow Melvin via his Twitter @Team_Manhoef