Raush Manfio thought his fighting career was over.
He hadn’t competed in over two years, and nothing seemed to be on the way. Seven fights were made, and seven fights were canceled. That left the professional MMA fighter without money for his hard work, and maybe that meant he technically wasn’t a professional prizefighter anymore anyway.
Things looked bleak.
Manfio had no fights and no sponsors. But he did have a wife and daughter, so he knew he needed to find paying work to help support his family.
“It was like a desert… I needed to start to do a regular job,” Manfio said.
So Manfio did that, but he also didn’t give up on his dream.
Now, he’s just two wins away from becoming a millionaire and a world champion in the Professional Fighters League (PFL).
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Manfio Listened to His Heart
Despite being out of action for so long, the Brazilian lightweight kept training as if something amazing was just around the corner.
And it totally was. Except that the amazing thing that happened had nothing to do with his MMA career at all.
“Then, my second daughter was born,” Manfio said.
So now Manfio had two very important things on his mind.
He knew he needed more money now than he ever needed before, and he knew he didn’t have it.
At that point, Manfio thought it might be best to call an end to his MMA career. But his wife, Michele, kept repeating to him the same thing Manfio’s heart was saying all along.
“Don’t quit. We moved to America for you to become a champion, not for you to become a regular worker.”
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Manfio Continued MMA Career In Different Way
It’s not that Manfio didn’t want a regular job.
It’s just that Manfio’s dream was to be a world-class MMA fighter. That idea lived inside his heart, and it lit his chest up like a Christmas tree every time he thought about it.
“We felt in our hearts we could make more,” Manfio said.
So Manfio got a regular job, but he didn’t quit on his dream.
“She didn’t let me,” he said
Things did start to change, even if he couldn’t see it yet.
He continued his MMA career, but he did it in a different way now. He picked up a regular job cleaning office buildings at night to help pay the bills, and he started teaching MMA on the side to make some extra cash.
And Manfio kept training as a pro fighter, too. Surrounded by some of the best fighters in the world at American Top Team in Cococunt Creek, Florida, Manfio trained as much as he could.
Sure, he could only do it in the mornings, then just three times per week, and he could only spare about half the time, or even less, than most full-fledged professional fighters do.
But he made up for that by focusing all of his attention on what he was doing at the time.
“The quality of my training had to be better even if I was training less,” Manfio said.
He started to become something new.
A Miracle for Manfio
Still, things didn’t quite turn around for Manfio the way he had hoped, at least as far as his MMA career went.
Sure, he was now living a new life with better priorities. Manfio put his family first, and he filled in the rest of his life around all that.
And yeah, his new mindset offered him a better overall experience in his life, too.
Where Manfio had perhaps before spent too much of his time focusing on what couldn’t be done, now he was the type of person who saw opportunity everywhere.
Regardless, two years out of the cage had revealed no prospects for him, and even upon his return to the fighting world in a world championship grappling match for Titan FC in 2020, the result of suffering a loss in that bout had seemingly yielded even fewer options than he had before.
Manfio thought it was all over.
“I will not be a professional anymore,” he finally admitted to himself.
But he was wrong.
Two weeks later, he signed with the PFL.
Manfio: ‘God Can Do Anything’
That would be a special enough story on its own, but Manfio added even more to the terrific tale.
Actually, Manfio would argue it was his Higher Power who added those things to his story, as well as the PFL contract, too.
Manfio is a Christian, and he believes his journey is part of God’s bigger plan.
Manfio believes the door to his success was opened for him, and he believes his two split-decision wins in the PFL, especially the second one against former UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis, prove he’s on a mission from God.
“I beat Anthony Pettis, so I know God can do anything. I am the proof that the God from the Bible is still our same God today,” Manfio said.
So Manfio’s journey was one of faith and hope. He had faith in the things he couldn’t see, and he really hoped he was right about it.
Those two things combined to help the fighter eventually do what he loves most.
Just three months ago, Manfio was cleaning offices at night and he was saying a prayer every single time he was about to be done with his work.
“God, thank you for opening this door for me. This is my last time cleaning at these offices,” he would pray.
Except that he always had to come back to work the next day.
Until he didn’t.
Manfio’s final prayer of thanksgiving for the thing he wanted most in his professional life happened on a Wednesday evening.
On Thursday, Manfio was signing his PFL contract.
“Yes!” he remembers feeling. “This time I was finally right!”
2021 PFL Playoffs: Manfio vs. Collard on August 13
Manfio faces Clay Collard at the 2021 PFL playoffs on Friday, August 13.
The action will be telecast via ESPN2 and ESPN+, and a victory over Collard would give Manfio the chance to fight for a world championship and $1 million.
Manfio feels like his life has already changed in a huge way. He went from being a part-time hopeful fighter to one of the final four fighters left standing in the PFL’s stacked 155-pound division.
On top of that, Manfio netted the single biggest win of his career against Pettis in a must-win fight for both stars.
“My life is never going to be the same after this win against him. Forever it’s going to be on my record. I won against Anthony Pettis,” Manfio said.
He can still hardly believe all that happened, but it did.
Manfio thought his career was on its way to being over, now it appears it might have just been taking off.
PFL Playoffs Begin August 13
The 2021 PFL playoffs begin Friday, August 13 on ESPN2 and ESPN+.
In the playoffs, fighters compete to advance to the 2021 PFL World Championship, the biggest night in MMA – with six title fights in one night, the winner of each will earn $1 million.
Fighters across two weight classes, lightweight and welterweight, will look to make it out of MMA’s ‘Final Four’ to move one step closer to becoming the PFL champion in their division and capture the $1 million in prize money that goes with the accolade.
Former MMA world champions Ray Cooper III (PFL) and Rory MacDonald (Bellator MMA) will lock horns in the highly anticipated main event in the welterweight division.
In the other 170-pound semi-final, 2018 PFL champ Magomed Magomedkerimov is set to take on Joao Zeferino.
The lightweight division will see boxing crossover sensation Clay Collard take on Manfio, while 2019 PFL lightweight runner-up Loik Radzhabov will start his postseason campaign against newcomer Alexander Martinez who is making his PFL Playoff debut.
Rounding out the card in non-tournament action, former two-time PFL lightweight champion Natan Schulte will face Oliver Aubin-Mercier, and welterweight Gleison Tibau will take on Sadibou Sy.
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