Since its inception Resurrection Fighting Alliance has been one of the premier developmental MMA promotions in the US and they have continually developed great talent; talent that the UFC has constantly drawn from. Once a fighter wins gold in RFA they are almost a lock to join the ranks of the UFC.

Flyweight champion Matt Manzanares is hoping to be the next to get the call after a great performance as he looks to defend fist title for the first time against tough Brazilian Alexandre Pantoja at RFA 18 in Albuquerque, NM on Friday September 12, 2014.

“I feel great man,” Manzanares told The MMA Corner. “This has been the hardest, toughest, the most focused and complete camp I have ever done. I feel awesome and I’m ready to go put on a great show and retain my title.”

This will be Manzanares’ third consecutive title fight; losing his first title bid by unanimous decision to Zack Makovsky at RFA 11 and then getting the nod in a close split decision over Junior Maranhao to win the title at RFA 14. Now that Manzanares is the champ he is even more motivated to go out perform.

“I definitely worked a lot harder and made a lot more sacrifices than I ever have,” Manzanares said. “This is the biggest fight of my career and I definitely put in the hard work and I’m going to be able to show that come Friday.”

As a struggling fighter sacrifice is nothing new to Manzanares who juggles a family and a full time job while chasing his fighting dream.

“Just leaving my family,” Manzanares said about his sacrifices. “I travel for two hours so I can come up and train for a couple of hours every night and then travel back home to work all day. The last couple of weeks I just took some vacation from my day job and came up here and left my family and made the complete sacrifice of leaving them at home and leaving my work and just really focused on this training camp.”

“It’s hard because I have to support my family and I have to always make sure that they come first,” Manzanares continued. “But this is my passion and what I love to do and my family supports me 110% with my fighting career. So that’s made it a little bit easier with them knowing that this is what I love to do.”

It’s not just his family who has supported his dream though as his day job employer help to make it possible for Manzanares to chase his dreams.

“I can’t say enough about all the love and support that I’ve gotten from my job and my bosses,” Manzanares said. “They have really supported me throughout my whole career ever since I started fighting. Even though I work a full time job with them they have been lenient with me in taking time off to go train. They have been 100% supportive of me wanting to reach my goals.”

With a great support system behind him Manzanares is ready to take that next step as a fighter.

“I’m ready to prove and showcase that I’m on a whole other level than some of these other guys,” Manzanares said. “I’m ready to be noticed as one of the top fighters in the world in my division. I’m ready to show that with hard work and dedication that I can be at the top of the totem pole in my weight division.”

Once fighters establish themselves they are able to attain a certain level of freedom; freedom from a 9 to 5, freedom to focus solely on their career.

“It’s going to be great,” Manzanares said. “Ever since I got into mixed martial arts this is what I dreamed of doing; training full time and fighting and being able to support my family. Once that happens, once that dream comes true that’s when the hard work is going to begin honestly. I just basically mentally preparing myself for that and I think it is going along great.”

But Manzanares’ dreams a much bigger than just being able to support his family as a full-time fighter; Manzanares wants to be great.

“In five years I definitely see myself as the champion being on the top of my division,” Manzanares said with great confidence. “I don’t even think I’ve hit my prime yet and I know I’m just getting better. With my skill level and everything I think that I’m finally starting to scrape my potential as to where my fighting style is going to take me. In five years I’m going to be the world champion.”

It doesn’t just take wins to become a world champion though. Just winning will eventually get a fighter to a title shot but if they want to be fast tracked they have to be exciting. Fans want to see fighters laying it all out there and going for broke.

“It’s important,” Manzanares said about being exciting. “The fans are a big part of this sport but with my style I’m not going to have any problem with that. I know I have a lot of support coming from my team and my family and my home town. My fighting style and my personality…when people see me they are going to like me. My style is just exciting anyway so I don’t put any pressure on myself to try on put on a good show because I know that I’m going to do that already.”

While the ultimate goal is to be a champion, gold is not what motivates Manzanares. It’s about the journey and evolution of him as a fighter and a person.

“Just testing myself and going beyond my limits,” Manzanares said. “When I first got into this sport I knew it was going to be hard and that it was going to take a lot of hard work and sacrifice but I didn’t know it was going to take this much. I’m barely scraping the base of that and that’s what I enjoy the most; growing as a person, a father, husband and fighter all at the same time. Helping me mature a lot faster and making me a lot tougher and just a better person.”

“I draw my motivation from my family and my faith and my belief in god,” Manzanares continued. “I know that he’s never going to give me anything more than I can handle and he’s given me all the

strength to carry through whatever I need to go through. My family just gives me so much love and support and happiness that I want to do good for them and I want to just keep being able to support them and show them that with hard work and sacrifice you can make your dreams comes true. I think that is a big part of my motivation; just showing them to believe in yourself and believe in your dreams and anything can happen.”

Matt would like to thank his sponsors. Safe Auto, 4DN Performance Now, Onit, Gamma Labs, Cauliflower Culture, Laramie County Chiropractic, Jackson Bar and Grill, The Tribe Zoo Tattoo, Brawlin Combat Gear and New Breed Nutrition. Matt also would like to thank his team and coaches at Team Wildman, Anthony Birchak, all of his training partners and his family. Follow Manzanares on Twitter: @ManzanaresMMA

About The Author

RJ Gardner
Content Coordinator

RJ Gardner is a rabid sports fan and a long time MMA enthusiast. After watching UFC 1 at ripe old age of 11 RJ was hooked and his passion for the sport has continued to blossom over the years. RJ has been covering MMA since 2007 and has had work featured on Bleacher Report, SI.com, CBSSports.com and UFC.com. RJ is also a Petroleum Transportation Operations Manager during the day.