Hey there everyone and welcome back to the 10 for 10 series here at Art of MMA. Today we are blessed with the presence of the man who currently runs one of the hottest division in the Cage Fury Fighting Championships, the welterweight division and he is none other than Manny Walo (@MannyNwalo). He is currently sitting at 10-2 and on a 3 fight win streak. So take a second to get to know the man who is at the top of the mountain in the CFFC and could be making a huge splash in the UFC very soon.
Hey champ thanks for taking the time out of your schedule to meet with us. Last time we spoke you were getting ready to battle for the CFFC WW strap. Well congrats as you took it via decision over a super tough guy in Jeremiah Wells. Talk to us about that fight, did he do anything different than what you prepared for in camp and if you could have that fight again would you do anything different to get the finish?
Walo: He didn’t really do much different than what I expected and thought he would do. It’s just one of those things when you watch someone fight on tape and then actually getting in there and realizing just how awkward and unorthodox he actually is. I felt that perhaps I was a little too cautious. Every time I would close the distance on him he would run away and I would have to chase him again. It was five rounds of playing cat and mouse. If I could do that fight again the one thing I would do different is making the cage really small for him and forcing him to fight rather than hit and run.
Yeah, I noticed that and that seems to be the new annoying trend in MMA as we also watched Alistar Overeem do it last Saturday. Now you have been with or around the CFFC for a long time, actually making your debut at CFFC 12. How would you describe the CFFC in terms of a business, what keeps you coming back to them and what kind of bosses are guys like Rob Haydak and Arias Garcia?
Walo: CFFC provides a good platform for fighters to showcase their skills. It’s a well ran show and give fighters the feel for the big show. As far as everything and everyone else I have no further comment on that.
You are the current WW champ, what does that title mean to you? What does it feel like and mean to also be a face of one of the best MMA promotions around?
Walo: I mean it’s cool to become a world champ but for me, yeah its great and all but I have not accomplished much of what I have set out to do so I can’t just be content with that. As far as being a face within the promotion, I wouldn’t go as far as saying that. I’m just another fighter trying to make a dream come true.
Well, you are doing a damn good job of that! Now for the fans that might not know you yet (should stop living under a rock) how would you describe yourself in and out of the cage? Why should people take notice of you?
Walo: Well, in the cage I’m very determined and I do whatever it takes to win. I try to apply that same philosophy to everyday life. Outside the cage you probably wouldn’t even know I’m a fighter. I’m very chill and relax and easy going, really don’t have a problem with no one and just enjoy having a good laugh here and there. I think people should just take notice of my calm laid back attitude and understand that just because I’m a fighter don’t mean I’m some egotistical meathead jock… I’m just as normal as everyone else. Make mistakes and learn from them like everyone else.
I couldn’t agree more with you both in and out of cage, I think I have known you for 3 years now and you’re just how you described. You are an US Army vet and we here at Art of MMA want to thank you for all that you have done for this country. Do you think your time served helped you prepare for the rigors of the world of MMA in terms of training, dedication and sacrifice?
Walo: I think it did because it taught me certain values and character traits that I still carry to this day and apply it to my MMA career and has thus been successful up to this point.
Well, thank you again for all you have done for this great country. You are a member of All Star Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Woodbridge Driven Gym. Talk to us about what the team means to you, why you choose to train there, what are the coaches like and are there any people we should keep an eye out for coming out of there?
Walo: My team is everything to me. My coaches made me what I am today. And it’s not just all star BJJ, also my other primary gym in Woodbridge Driven gym with my other head coach James Meals, Renzo Gracie Academy, Edge Wrestling in Hoboken, and my boxing coach terrific. I take important lessons and skill set from all these wonderful people in my life and apply it to my MMA career.
With a team like that and a guy like Renzo Gracie you can’t go wrong. Ok, lets get to the big topic. CFFC 60 we saw the return of Jonavin Webb and the debut of Eddie Gordon. We know Jonavin is the former champ of the division and everyone would assume he has his eyes on you as the current champ. Assess his performance at CFFC 60 and do you see him as your next opponent?
Walo: Me and Jonavin are cool, we train together from time to time and I work with his coach Daniel Gracie every so often so I don’t think we are going to fight, especially on this level.
Yeah, Jonavin is a guy that is hard not to be cool with haha. Also that night we saw the debut of Eddie “Truck” Gordon, a guy who Arias Garcia said could be coming to 170, did you watch his performance and what did you see there? Is he another guy you have to keep your eye on?
Walo: No, I didn’t watch his performance but from what I heard it was a good one so congrats to him.
This division, your division of WW is has been stacked with talent but now there are even more sharks in your waters. First, do you feel you have a target on your back being the top dog in that yard, how do you handle that pressure? Does it push you more in training?
Walo: I don’t really think too much of that. I’m not one to sit and wait and ponder over things to come or rather have not yet come. It’s a lot of work out here and I’m tired sitting on my ass watching everyone else work and I’m just looking on. A few months ago, I was discouraged from fighting again. I was ready to walk away from the sport. I made a mistake with my first title defense and I learned from it. There were several other fighters within the same organization that made that same mistakes and were given second chances and I felt that with me it was personal and that’s why you guys haven’t heard much from me. I’m not going to sit here and get into all that, I just take it for what it is.
People from the outside looking in don’t understand the amount of work you have to put in as a fighter, especially if you are training for a 5 rounds fight. It takes a serious toll on your body because it’s not the actual fight it’s the prep for the fight. I know people will say well if you just finish your opponent quickly you won’t have to go five rounds. They don’t take into account the preparation leading up to the fight. I was sparring 6-7 rounds a sparring session to get me prepare for a five round fight, training two to three times a day and what not and after a while it takes a toll on your body because you can’t slow down to let your body heal, especially with the fight quickly approaching. And for the shitty ass money I’m making on this level it’s not worth it. If I never have to fight another 5 round fight again unless it’s obviously for a UFC title, I wouldn’t even bat an eye. I been a pro for 5 years now and it’s been a long, slow and tedious road and along the way I have learned a lot of valuable lessons and one of the ugly truths I found out along the way is that these so call promotions loyalty to a fighter only goes as far as how many tickets you can sell for them. I understand that it’s a business and what not but the guys that don’t sell tickets like myself but fight to the best of their abilities every time they step in the cage and are usually successful, are usually treated like second rate. It’s like this is who you are fighting, this is what we are paying you, take it or leave. And most of the time fighters will take it because they are desperate. These organizations make their money and reputation of the exploitation and disenfranchisement of fighters. I learned that you are your own business and if you’re not getting the respect and acknowledgment you deserve you should go where you can be appreciated. A promotion doesn’t get you to the UFC, they may help, but they don’t get you there… Your team, coaches and most importantly yourself.
I think more fighters will have more leverage if they understood this. Sorry about rambling on and on. Just wanted to get this off my chest.
Wow! That might have been the most honest answer we have ever received and you know you never need to apologize for that with us! So we have heard rumors of you being last minute replacements in fights in the UFC, nothing ever official. What do you feel you have to do to get that call, do you feel you could be a top contender there and if you could have a dream match as a UFC debut who would it be and why?
Walo: I try not to think too much about that. I still have a long way to go and I’m just going to continue training hard, fighting and winning. Everything else will fall into place. I believe in Fate, if it was meant to be it will be. I can’t control it you know, only thing I can control is my preparation and when it comes I will be ready. Getting to the UFC is not the goal, it’s staying there and become a name and a contender and I believe I have what it takes. My dream match for a UFC debut, ah man I don’t know, anyone really. It will just be an honor to fight there.
That sounds about right! We know your time is precious so before we let you go, are there any people or sponsors you would like to mention?
Walo: I just want to thank all my sponsor for sticking with me (Nutrition Zone Oak Ridge, NJ, Lana Egg whites, Eat Clean Bro, Hayabusa) my coaches, teammates and most importantly all the people that supported me throughout my career, you guys are all my friends. Thank you all.
There you have it fight fans, the man who sits atop the Welterweight Division in the cut throat CFFC. Make sure to get over to Twitter and Instagram and follow him @armyfighter05 as he is one of the more personable and likable guys out there!