Former PFL lightweight champion Raush Manfio is looking at a worst-case scenario fight at the 2023 PFL 6 card in Atlanta, Georgia this Friday.
Manfio (17-4), who won the 2021 PFL lightweight season, is scheduled to face Natan Schulte in his second fight of the year — a fellow fighter who is his best friend, and godfather to his daughter.
“It’s a terrible situation man, to be honest. Not one of us is happy with this,” Manfio told Cageside Press in a recent exclusive interview. “We were ready to fight each other in the semifinals, or the dream is the finals.”
Against all odds, Manfio is hoping that the fight falls apart — which might be a first in mixed martial arts, where athletes generally dread opponents pulling out. To be clear, Manfio wants to fight on Friday, just not against his friend.
“We got really surprised with this match,” noted Manfio, “but you never know, maybe by then, after the weigh-in, someone got five pounds over the limit and they change this match-up last minute. But we both are ready to kill. It doesn’t matter who we need to fight. We’re ready.”
Manfio and Schulte, a two-time PFL lightweight champion himself, had spoken of the possibility of facing off before, they just didn’t expect the fight to come so soon. Especially with so many other fighters in the weight class. “Like for example, they put a new guy, a newcomer [Anthony Romero] to make the main event against OAM [Olivier Aubin-Mercier], and they put this match-up for us.”
“This was a huge bad surprise,” Manfio added.
“Imagine, put yourself in my place, if you need to fight your best friend. It’s not like [Alex] Martinez and OAM, when they fought in the semifinals. Last week, I got to have dinner at his house. We are really family. So it’s weird. It’s really weird.”
So weird that Manfio is preparing for the fight “physically and mentally thinking I’m going to fight another guy,” he added.
With all that having been said, if nothing crazy scuttles the fight prior to Friday, Manfio is certain that there will be no holding back. Especially since a finish may be needed to advance to the post-season.
“We try everything to not fight. If we fight, we fight 100%, so we need a finish. Just like any other fight,” Manfio stated. “We need to respect each other, honor each other, we are friends no matter what. But if this happens — I don’t this to happen, but if this happens at the end of the day, we need to fight for real. He’s going to try to finish me in the first round, and I’m going to try to finish him in the first round. If we fight, there’s no 50% fight. It’s always 100%.”
Watch our full interview with 2023 PFL 6 lightweight Raush Manfio above.