Manuwa excited to welcome Santos to light heavyweight division

Jimi Manuwa will face former middleweight Thiago Santos on Sept. 22 in Brazil. Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

At a Los Angeles news conference a few weeks ago, the UFC announced several fights scheduled in the coming months. Among them was Glover Teixeira (27-7) vs. Jimi Manuwa (17-4), which was supposed to be the main event for UFC Fight Night 137 on Sept. 22 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. However, a shoulder injury forced Teixeira out of the contest, allowing Thiago Santos (18-6) to step in on short notice.

This will mark the first time Santos is competing at light heavyweight, having spent his entire MMA career at 185 pounds.

Going from a ranked opponent to a first-timer at 205 pounds wasn't the news Manuwa was hoping to receive.

"When I first found out, I was utterly disappointed," Manuwa told ESPN. "I was going to Brazil to fight their top light heavyweight. I always knew me and Glover were going to meet. From the minute he stepped into the UFC, I always knew we were going to clash one day. I called for him a couple of times, and we haven't got to fight."

When news broke of Teixeira's withdrawal, several fighters took to social media and put their names in the hat. Santos got the nod, and although it's not the most ideal situation for the Brit, the manner in which he went about trying to get the fight has given Manuwa all the motivation he needs.

"I thought this kid is trying to make a name for himself off of me," Manuwa explained. "He's tweeted about me before, but I took no notice because he's a middleweight and I thought, 'Come to light heavyweight and see what's up.' I wanted a ranked light heavyweight. I was waiting for a better offer but then the UFC kept putting his name forward and he tweeted saying I'm scared to take a third loss. That put fuel in the fire, I accepted the fight and I'm going to take his head off and bring it back to London.

"He's an explosive fighter and he hits hard but light heavyweight is a total different ballgame to middleweight. We hit so much harder, and he's going to find out the hard way."

This will mark Manuwa's first fight in Brazil and only his fourth fight outside of the U.K. ever.

With uncertainty at the top of the division and questions surrounding whether Daniel Cormier will defend his UFC light heavyweight or heavyweight title next, Manuwa's only concern right now is getting his hand raised on Sept. 22.

"The division is all over the place right now and anything can happen with the top five fighters," Manuwa said. "I know DC is reluctant to fight Alex (Gustafson). He's already beat Volkan (Oezdemir), (Ilir) Latifi is staying ready, (Jan) Blachowicz is in front of me. Who knows what's going to happen."

Manuwa isn't sure what Cormier will do next, as it's got a lot to do with his weight, but would like to see him fight once more at 205 pounds before taking the money fight against Brock Lesnar.

"It's all to do with his weight going up and going down from heavyweight," Manuwa explained. "I think he should defend his light heavyweight title and then maybe do his last fight against Brock Lesnar."

A little over a year ago there were rumblings of Manuwa chasing a boxing match with David Haye. With Haye now retired that doesn't appear to be a possibility anymore, however that doesn't stop Manuwa from leaving the door on on it, should the right opportunity arise for the right amount of money.

"If Zuffa Boxing pays well, then 100 percent, I'm always up for it," Manuwa said. "David Haye didn't want it. David Haye was the perfect opponent for me because he was a small heavyweight with a big name and we were about the same size. I can't think of any heavyweights that would match up well with me. They're all too big. So I'll knock that on the head for now and concentrate on MMA."