Raush Manfio (right) advanced to the PFL lightweight playoff semifinals with a win over Anthony Pettis. | Cooper Neill, PFL
Raush Manfio signed with the Professional Fighters League as a short-notice replacement outside the lightweight playoffs and ended up beating one of the biggest signings in PFL history to earn a chance for the million-dollar prize. Now, he aims for the head of 155-pound talent Clay Collard at PFL 7.
Both Manfio and Collard won decisions over Joilton Lutterbach and Anthony Pettis in a span of two months to reach the 2021 semifinals, and “War Horse” expects him to be “the toughest opponent in the playoffs.” The other finalist will emerge from Loik Radzhabov vs. Alex Martinez, also scheduled for Aug. 13 in Hollywood, Fla.
“I think the winner of this fight will be the favorite to win the tournament even though I don’t like being the favorite,” Manfio said with a laugh during in an interview with MMA Fighting. “The way everything is going for me makes me more relaxed, there’s no pressure over my shoulders. I like being the underdog.”
Getting a win over “Showtime” Pettis, a former UFC and WEC lightweight titleholder, “forever changed the story of my career,” said the American Top Team fighter. To follow it up with a victory against Collard, who has done great in boxing and MMA since parting ways with the UFC in 2015, will be the icing on the cake.
“In my head, this fight ends in the first round with me knocking him out,” Manfio said. “His boxing is really good, he’s an extraordinaire and aggressive fighter. I think it matches up well with my style because we don’t take steps back in the fight.
“I believe I have one-punch knockout power, I don’t need to land twice. He’s more of a fighter that connects two, three strikes. He landed many clean strikes that rocks his opponents but when I landed they went down. I have more pressure in my strikes. If he comes in, and I throw my hands, he’s going down.”
Radzhabov, who lost a decision to Natan Schulte in the 2019 million-dollar playoff finals, will rematch Martinez for the second spot in the final. Martinez won a split decision — controversially, Manfio adds — in their first meeting back in April, and Manfio expects Radzhabov to have his hands raised in the end on Friday.
“I’d like to fight him in the final,” Manfio said. “I think fans would like a fight with him more, it would be more of a show. He likes to stand and bang, while Martinez would probably try to stall and put on a boring fight. I don’t like that. I want to put on a show for the fans and have fun there.”