Concussions, knockouts and migraine headaches have been handed out freely throughout the career of one of the absolute most dangerous strikers in the brief history of the sport.
Melvin Manhoef is the very definition of a knockout artist. A walking hand grenade. Twenty three times he has tasted victory in mixed martial arts and twenty two of those times the Dutch terminator has finished his fights on his terms, violently, and by knockout.
It’s no surprise that Manhoef has long been referred to throughout Holland as the Dutch Mike Tyson. Like Manhoef, Tyson was typically the smaller man in the ring but usually found a way to even the odds with the dynamite in his fists.
However, the two are far from identical. Manhoef has a kick that would make Tong Po proud and Tyson never had some of the worlds best submission artists trying, with every fiber of their being, to take him to the mat and choke the life out of him.
Born in Paramaribo, Suriname, fighting wasn’t always in the script for Manhoef. His uncle, ‘Django’, was a professional kickboxer and would often try to get the young Manhoef to give kickboxing a try, to no avail. Even after his childhood friends began training with his uncle, and his brother became involved with the sport, Manhoef could not be persuaded. He was going to be an athlete, but he wasn’t going to be a fighter.
“As a child I started playing soccer,” reflected Manhoef in an exclusive interview with FiveOuncesOfPain.com. “I was quite talented and was training hard to become a pro.”
“I was never really interested in kickboxing. My uncle was a famous fighter in Rotterdam, he tried to excite me for the sport but I showed no interest. My brother Moreno was also fighting at the time.”
At just 12-years old, Manhoef moved to the city of Zaandam, which is just outside of Amsterdam, and joined the soccer academy of AZ. Long one of Holland’s most beloved soccer teams, AZ Alkmaar gave the aspiring up and comer a shot after a couple of Manhoef’s friends had convinced some of the teams scouts to give the young Dutchman a look.
Everything was coming along as planned for Manhoef in his journey to become a professional soccer player until disaster struck. According to Manhoef, the death of one dream was just the birth of another.
“After I broke my ankle and couldn’t play soccer anymore I thought I would finally give kickboxing a try,” said Manhoef. “From that point on, I liked it very much. Within three months I entered the ring for the first time.”
The ability to separate his opponents from consciousness has always come fairly easy to the ferociously aggressive thirty two year old. Manhoef has been knocking people out since day one.
“From quite early on I was very strong,” admitted Manhoef. “Even when I was eighteen years old and 155-160 pounds, I had a strong punch with knockout power. When I got heavier this developed much more and I got even stronger.”
Upon entering the world of professional fighting, Manhoef has trained with many of the very best gyms in Holland. He has trained with Choku Gym in Zaandam, Rock Gym in Zaandam, and Chakuri Gym in Amsterdam in before finally settling with his current gym, and according to Manhoef, there’s no place like home.
Owner of Mike’s Gym and Manhoef’s head trainer, Mike Passenier is more than just ‘coach’ to the former Cage Rage champion. Passenier has become a mentor and friend to Manhoef, inside the ring, and out.
“Mike made me better and stronger as a fighter,” said Manhoef. “He made me wiser and more focused in the ring. Also, outside the ring he made me more mature and focused.”
Passenier has produced many of Holland’s most feared fighters, among them, one of K-1′s most lethal heavyweight strikers, Badr Hari. Having a guy like Hari available in the gym has become a huge benefit for Manhoef in more ways than one.
“Me and Badr Hari have spent a lot of time together because of all of the fights that we have had in Japan,” said Manhoef. “He is a good friend of mine. When we travel, we have a great time and laugh a lot.”
“Only when we are sparring are we not so friendly.”
Manhoef showed what he’s all about in his most recent performance when he agreed to face the much larger Mark Hunt on less than twenty four hours notice for the K-1 Dynamite New Years Eve event. His only training for the fight was his time on the mitts before he went out.
“I wasn’t supposed to fight in Dynamite, so I wasn’t really in training,” admitted Manhoef. “I went along with Badr for his fight against Alistair Overeem. The night before the event K-1 asked me to fight because Jerome Le Banner couldn’t fight Mark.”
Manhoef would be lying if he said that the short notice and massive difference in weight didn’t have him a little bit shook up, but Melvin doesn’t scare easily.
“Sure, I was a little worried about taking the fight with Mark on such short notice,” confessed Manhoef when asked if the lack of a training camp was playing on his mind when he entered the ring against Hunt.
“The weight difference was nearly 100 pounds and I wasn’t really trained for a fight,” he continued. “I knew it was challenge for me. After my victory over Paul Slowinsky, who was 45 pounds heavier than me, I knew I could handle the weight difference. Since I’m smaller and lighter than most guys, I have to fight heavier guys anyway.”
Hunt rushed in at Manhoef in the opening moments of round one and was met with a shower of fists that left the hefty New Zealander with the iron chin sprawled out on the canvas, unconscious. Hunt’s cast iron jaw may have been the type that legends are made of, but in MMA, there’s a first time for everything.
“Mark had never been knocked out before,” pointed out Manhoef. “I think it was a surprise for the both of us.”
“It was the best possible outcome for me”
At the bouts conclusion, Manhoef took the microphone and joked about possibly facing off with the 7’2″, 330 pound, Hong Man Choi. A fight that the freak show crazed Japanese fans would surely love to see, but a fight that, according to Manhoef, won’t be happening anytime soon.
“I won’t fight Hong Man Choi, the size difference is too big,” said Manhoef. “Although, I would wonder if I had a chance.”
While he won’t be fighting anyone over seven foot tall anytime in the near future, there is one man that Manhoef has been itching to fight for quite some time now. Having recently beaten one of his fighting idols in Kazushi Sakuraba, there is just one more guy that the Dutch bomber has left on his “former hero’s to fight bucket list”.
“It would be an honor to fight Wanderlei,” said the 5’9″, 200 pound wrecking machine.
A fight with Wanderlei Silva would mean that either fighter would have to come to the other’s promotion. It’s safe to say that the UFC has no plans of renting out “The Axe Murderer” anytime soon, so what’s left is a possible move to the UFC for Manhoef. A move that has been speculated upon among hardcore fans for years, and unfortunately, a move that will have to wait. Manhoef said that he’s doing good, right where he’s at.
“At the moment I’m really not thinking about that,” admitted Manhoef when asked about a possible move to any of the major promotions in the United States. “I’m happy with the K-1 organization. I just focus on my career in Japan for this moment.”
Although the match up with Silva will most definitely have it’s share of road blocks and obstacles to overcome, there is one fight that Manhoef desires that could become a reality, sooner, rather than later.
“Of course I want a rematch with Gegard,” confessed Manhoef. “I’m very disappointed with myself for losing this fight and the DREAM title.”
Just because the man referred to as “No Mercy” has no immediate plans of fighting in the states, that doesn’t mean he’s not a fan of the country. Having trained with The American Top Team in Florida recently, if a rematch with Gegard Mousasi was to come to fruition, a return to America may be in order.
“I will definitely go back to ATT to train,” said Manhoef. “The guys there help me to improve my ground skills and have become good friends of mine.”
Sure, Manhoef is back to business as usual, knocking people senseless any chance he can get, but not very long ago the electrifying finisher made an announcement that he was done with the sport. He was walking away from the game.
So many times in the fight world, there is more than meets the eye, especially when it comes to the fighters lives on the home front. The sacrifices that go into competing at the level that Manhoef does on a fight to fight basis comes with a price tag.
“I made a lot of sacrifices for a long time,” explained Manhoef. “My life was all about training, I was in the gym 24/7 and I didn’t do anything else or see or talk to anyone.”
“During the time I was in Japan for Dream 6, my father lost his wife. I couldn’t be there for him then. This made me realize that there are more important things in life than fighting. I had to be there for my family too.”
Once a fighter, always a fighter, and Manhoef just can’t shake that bug. Luckily for him, he has come to grips with the fact that he just can’t seem to stay away from this game that he has come to love and another departure from the walking highlight reel is not looming in the immediate future.
“For a long time I’ve been fighting both in MMA and kickboxing,” said Manhoef. “I will keep continuing both disciplines. I will keep on giving the fans exciting and spectacular fights.”
There’s more to fighting now for Manhoef than just the fun of it, or making a living for himself, he has mouths to feed. His special talent of being able to pummel another man into complete bewilderment has the potential to make it a lot easier for those he cares for the most in the long run.
“I think about my children’s future,” admitted Manhoef. “I want the best for them. My fighting can maybe give them a better future. So I’ll do all I can.”
It’s not only his children that Manhoef looks after. He has started a program in Holland to help the kids find an outlet for their aggression and do something positive with their lives.
“We started Kickbox Kids to improve and professionalize kickboxing for children up to 15 years old,” said Manhoef. “We organize events and tournaments in which the children are the center of attention.”
The position of responsibility in the lives of many of the young students that look up to Manhoef is one that he welcomes.
“The kids look up to me and I try to be a role model,” said Manhoef.
There were a few people that Manhoef wanted to thank for supporting him throughout his fighting career.
“I would like the fans who support me. I need the support to keep giving my best. I would like to thank the people around me who help me train and make sure I can focus on training. The people closest to me help me a lot they make it possible for me to focus on training and fighting and take many other things of my shoulders. They help me achieve my goals. Of course, I want to thank my sponsors, Fraldi Real Estate and MDY Sports Nutrition. MDY Sports Nutrition products help me recover, give me strength and help me build and keep up my physique.”