Kyle Kingsbury on Upcoming Meeting with Jimi Manuwa: “He Hasn’t Been Into Deep Waters. I Know What I’ve Got…I Want to Take Him There and See What He’s Got.”
By Tom Taylor
UFC on Fuel TV 5 goes down on September 29, in Nottingham, England. The event, which is now less than a month away, will mark the return of The Ultimate Fighter alumnus Kyle Kingsbury, who will look to get back on track after a two-fight skid. He will have the opportunity to do so against undefeated English knockout artist, Jimi Manuwa.
Manuwa will provide a serious obstacle for Kingsbury, made even more difficult by a scooter accident Kingsbury had last weekend. Despite the accident, “Kingsbu” is still on track to fight at UFC on Fuel TV 5, and spoke with Full Contact Fighter from a hyperbaric tank that is helping speed up his recovery.
“I’ve got some road rash I’m dealing with right now. That’s why I’m going into the hyperbaric tank. It’s put my training on hold for the week, but the doctor’s optimistic and says nothing’s deeper than the second layer [of skin] and so I should heal quickly. I should be ready to go by Monday hopefully. So that’ll have put me out for about a week and I’ll have the last four weeks to go hard and get ready,” Kingsbury said of his injury and subsequent recovery.
Kingsbury, like his doctor, is optimistic that he will be on track for his fight with Manuwa.
“It’s obviously going to have its effects, but I still feel like I’ll be able to have everything necessary to go out and get the win.”
In his last fight, Kingsbury served as the welcome committee for Glover Teixeira’s UFC debut. That fight did not go as planned, as Kingsbury was rocked, and then submitted by the Brazilian prospect in the fight’s first round. Before that, Kingsbury lost a hard-fought decision to Stephan Bonnar. Not surprisingly, Kingsbury says the consecutive losses were difficult to cope with.
“Both of those losses were really, really tough. Losing at home to Stephan [Bonnar] after a four fight win-streak and having all that momentum stop—plus it was my first time on the main card, and being part of a big pay-per-view and I got to fight at home—that was tough. And then, when I fought Glover [Teixeira] I knew exactly what I was getting myself into, but obviously I don’t have any choice in the matter.
“I can’t turn fights down. He’s so good, he’s got power on his feet, he’s got good wrestling, and he’s a dangerous [Brazilian jiu jitsu] black belt. So I mean really, where do you go? How do you pick your poison? That was a tough fight to game plan for. I got caught early, and just wasn’t comfortable the whole fight,” Kingsbury said. “It was a tough loss. One of those fights where you finish and wonder where you go from there.” Following the Teixeira loss though, Kingsbury says a return to training was precisely the remedy he needed.
“I think the key for me was just getting back in the gym and getting back to training and continuing to learn. I had a great camp; I had one of the best camps I’ve ever had for the Glover fight. So really just trying to expand and learn more and continuing to grow as a fighter was my focus.”
Still, he admits that the pressure of a two-fight losing streak is difficult to ignore. Fighters have been released from the UFC for less.
“You know, there’s pressure and then there isn’t pressure. The more I work on the mental aspects of fighting, and dive into the psychology of it, the less pressure there is on me come fight time. As I continue to develop myself mentally as a fighter, the less pressure there is every time I fight, regardless of the background noise that’s going. Hype around a fight, hype around a win-streak, hype around a loss streak and that ‘oh, you’ve got to win this one or you’re getting cut’, kind of deal— all that stuff is just negativity. You’re talking about what-ifs. Well that pressure doesn’t do anything for you. It doesn’t build you up or make you a better fighter. Going to the gym, learning new things, visualizing success; those are the things that make you a better fighter, and those are the things that I do.”
Kingsbury’s impressive attitude with respect to his losses should serve him well in his next fight, as even he admits he will need every advantage he can get against Manuwa—despite the fact that he had not heard of him before the UFC suggested the matchup.
“You know, I hadn’t heard about him, but a few of my friends had. [Ryan] Bader had heard of him, and King Mo [Lawal], and I talked to those guys about him, and got a general idea before I even looked at his footage. The first thing I saw in scouting him is that he’s so relaxed, and when you look at guys coming up in the lower shows, almost always they have that kind of go-for-broke mentality, where they come out guns blazing. Even if they don’t initially do that, they often get sucked into it. But he [Manuwa] is a guy who remains composed in fights. Even if he gets hit hard, he keeps his composure. He’s got killer instinct in him no question, but he’s always got a kind of composure to him, and I think that’s very impressive for a guy who hasn’t fought at the UFC level,” Kingsbury said.
“I can hit the guy clean and it’s not going to change his demeanor. It’s not going to turn him into some barroom brawler where his technique goes out the window and he’s swinging like a madman. He’s always going to have his composure and he’s always going to hit clean. He has very good stand-up; excellent boxing and knees and Muay Thai. So that’s something new for me; just going against a guy who can at the very least match me in the clinch. That will be a factor because that [the clinch] has always been a strength of mine.”
While many fighters, including Kingsbury, are unsuccessful in their UFC debuts, Kingsbury believes that Manuwa is more than ready for the UFC.
“Oh, Jimi is definitely ready for the UFC. First of all, any guy who comes to the UFC and hasn’t fought in the big show has always beaten guys that some would consider good or bad, journeymen or whatever. Well, that’s what’s available to you at the lower level. Now the question is how are you beating those guys? If you look at how he’s beating those guys, he’s definitely annihilating the competition at that level.”
Kingsbury’s respect for his upcoming opponent is abundant. Given that Manuwa holds 10 of his 11 wins by knockout, many of which occurred in the first round, this is not surprising. The keys to victory against a vicious opponent like Manuwa, Kingsbury believes, are movement and caution.
“He’s a dangerous guy and you’ve got to treat him as such. I’ve got to be a bit more elusive than I’ve been in the past. I can’t stand right in front of him and trade punches. I’ve got to be in and out, I’ve got to move. I can’t rush a takedown, or rush to the clinch, because he’s calculated and he can make you pay for any mistake,” Kingsbury said.
“Given this guy’s striking I don’t think I even want to trade with him that long. I don’t think it’s giving away much by saying I want to take him down. I want to put him on his back and see what he’s got on the ground and take his strengths away from him.” Despite Kingsbury’s urgency to ground Manuwa, he doesn’t expect this to be an easy task.
“He’s definitely going to be a tough guy to take down; even if his wrestling isn’t solid, just for the fact that he’s so dangerous on the feet. It goes back to the Glover fight. As I was moving in on him he hit me with an uppercut, and that’s the same thing I’ll have to keep my eye on in this fight. Nobody wants to lose the same way twice. I don’t want to be dazed on the ground and get finished. So in this fight just being cautious, and improving on the ways I enter into the clinch and improving the way I enter into a shot will help me to set things up differently so that way I don’t get caught on the way inside.”
Regardless of the dangerous, and yet unsolved puzzle that lies ahead of him in Manuwa, Kingsbury is certain his fight with Manuwa will be thrilling for fans in England and the world over, as he will be looking to drag his opponent into a drawn out, action-packed fight.
“There’s going to be a lot of action. That’s one thing that I pride myself on, is constantly working towards stuff. Even if I’m on top I’m not going to be sitting there hanging out, I’m going to be looking for ways to finish. If he’s successful on keeping it on the feet, I’m going to shift gears and work to do what I do best and try and get to the clinch, soften him up, and break the guy’s will”, Kingsbury said.
“He hasn’t been into deep waters. I know what I’ve got in the last two minutes of the third round— I want to take him there and see what he’s got.”