Brazilian lightweight Rausch Manfio dropped to one knee and burst into tears as he picked up the phone, and his manager told him he would join the Pro Fighters League lightweight in 2021 after almost three years away from the sport.
Manfio, who will face Joylton Lutterbach in the Premier League season one qualifiers on Friday night in Atlantic City, New Jersey, hasn’t entered the cage since losing the Titan FC lightweight belt to Sydney Outlaw in June 2018. He tried to do deals with Bellator, Contender Series and even PFL ever since, but I was told several times: “Just win one or two firsts.”
Manfio’s struggle to get into fights hasn’t improved since the COVID-19 pandemic began in early 2020. The American top lightweight claims to have canceled nine fights in a little over two years, and his main sponsor, who paid him a monthly fee, eventually severing ties with him.
“I remember offering to fight for free, man,” Manfio said in an interview with MMA Fighting. “Just give me a fight in any promotion, I will fight right around the corner so I don’t lose a sponsor.” What can I say, it was God’s will and I couldn’t fight. I even offered to fight on Titan for free. “I need a fight in the next 45 days.” But I couldn’t get one [fight]… “
The Brazilian fighter lost the monthly check that helped him pay rent and make ends meet, and a pandemic broke out shortly thereafter, leaving him “almost depressed.” He thought about returning to his home country and working for his stepfather’s construction company in São Paulo, but changed his mind after his stepfather offered the job and told him to “forget about MMA.”
However, Manfio had to do something if he really wanted to stay in Florida, and that’s when his teammate and friend Nathan Schulte, two-time PFL lightweight champion and godfather to Manfio’s daughter, volunteered to help.
“He’s my best friend,” Manfio said. “He helped me in everything I asked for. He had money [previous PFL seasons] and helped me pay my rent several times, when I had no money, he bought me something to eat. I [in the United States] because of him. He is a friend sent by God. On the other hand, I felt terrible for asking him about it. ”
The former Titan FC title holder began teaching private lessons to earn extra money and took a job as a janitor at a local hospital. Manfio worked in the hospital 13 hours a day and trained only once a day in the gym, helping teammates Edson Barboza, Thiago Moises, Renato Moicano and Mateusz Hamroth prepare in camp for UFC fights when he finally got a call from the PFL. …
“To become a good fighter, you need to have a strong mind, and for that you need to survive and develop as a person,” he said. “If you are a weak person, it will probably affect the battle. I’ve had to learn how to make money in the last three years. I was not diagnosed with depression, but it started. It was bad. “
Manfio is set to fight on Friday and knows he will have a busy second half of 2021 if all goes well for him at lightweight. Being able to have two sponsors in a cage is the reason he is “happier” in the PFL about a possible deal with the UFC, and a million dollar check at the end of the year will forever change his life.
However, Manfio may be forced to fight his close friend Schulte in order to claim this prize. Schulte’s mother, Margaret, called Manfio to congratulate him on the PFL deal and started crying over the possibility of colliding with each other in a cage.
“I pray that we will only meet in the final,” he said. “My heart would have been torn apart in any situation other than this one. If we fight in the finals, we will fight for a good reason [laughs]… This is a good problem. Imagine two Christians showing how God changed our lives. From nothing to winning a tournament and reaching the final? It’s like Goku and Vegeta. “