You can bet that Clay Collard hasn’t forgotten about his first fight with Raush Manfio.
Collard and Manfio met in the semifinals of the 2021 PFL playoffs and it was Manfio who left the SmartCage with his hand raised after picking up a controversial unanimous decision. Making the result sting even more for Collard, Manfio went on to win the season’s lightweight tournament to claim a championship belt and its $1,000,000 prize.
Now Collard has been primed to play in the 2022 PFL Season and bounce back from his first league defeat — but he doesn’t think he can bounce back.
” I don’t believe that I lost last year all year. That’s what Collard stated in a recent interview to MMA Fighting.
” I still haven’t got it over with,” he said. “But you’ve got to move on and look to the future. You know what it is? I thought I won the fight, so I don’t know. Raush should be on the lookout this year, because I’m here to fool .”
Collard started the 2021 season off with a bang by spoiling the PFL debut of Anthony Pettis then taking a split decision against Joilton Lutterbach to book himself a spot in the playoffs. His bout with Manfio was an entertaining affair, one that saw both fighters land their fair share of power punches, though Collard is still confident he was the better man that night.
Manfio was not impressed with the entire 2021 season.
” This next fight, should we get one again, and when we get another fight, I will prove I’m the stronger fighter because I think I am,” Collard stated. Collard said, “I think I did enough to win the fight. I mean, you look at us after, his face looked like hamburger meat compared to mine. I out-landed him — the computer system had me out-landing him, like, 168-98. Second round, I almost caught him in a choke. The third round was over. I almost caught him in a choke.
” I think he got by. He seemed to have beaten Lutterbach. He barely beat Pettis. He was beaten up by me and robbed. So, the man walked in the title .”
” One million dollars and a belt around me waist, Collard said as he reflected on the loss. It hurts .”
In addition to the striking stats being in his favor, Collard pointed to a number of other metrics as justification for his criticism of the judging.
“You’ve got both commentators, Kenny Florian and Randy Couture are commentating, both of them had me winning,” Collard said. Collard stated, “The fans, all of the fans voted for me to win. And the computer system had me out-landing him.
” So everything points towards me winning — and I’m not sure what fight the judges were looking at. They might have been watching something else. It’s possible they were just writing down information on the scorecard
Collard anticipates Manfio and him to cross paths this season. Both men will need to fight through a tough field, which also includes Pettis and Natan Schulte (two-time PFL champion) as well as Collard, who takes on Jeremy Stephens in Wednesday’s main event.
It’s a fight that Collard sees as being best for business.
Collard stated that
“PFL is smart. “They’re starting the season off with the best banger they can come up with, and that’s me, me and whoever. They are bringing in Jeremy Stephens, he is new and has a name. He also has a large following. The promotion’s clever. They’re starting the season off with a banger.
” I started with Pettis last summer, but this year I am starting with Jeremy Stephens. It’s going to be a big hit. That’s smart promoting.”
Stephens, a veteran of 34 UFC fights, seems like a perfect matchup on paper as both he and Collard are known for their striking acumen. Stephens feels the exact same way as Collard, so he was sure he would be facing him.
” I called it,” Collard stated. Collard said, “I called it,” and I also told everyone, “They’re going to give me Stephens straight out of the gate. Watch.” They’re gonna give me Stephens right out the gate.’ I got the call from the president, Ray [Sefo], and he’s like, ‘You got Stephens.’ I said, ‘I called that! That s ***, It was .’
“So I’m excited. My boxing is a lot cleaner than his. I’m a lot longer than him. He’s been fighting at ’45, he’s coming up to ’55, I think I’m gonna be the bigger guy. I don’t think he hits any harder than Raush and I was still on my feet at the end of that fight with Raush, so I’m ready to bang and put on a show for the fans. This is why I do it. Lose, draw or win, I am still the best fighter .”