Raush Manfio recounts cleaning offices and borrowing money just to survive before becoming PFL champion


RaushManfio almost gave up.

After nearly three decades of trying to arrange fights, only for each opponent to refuse or to drop out before the bout could take place, the Brazilian-born lightweight reached a turning point in his career.

“My wife had just given birth to my first child after my last bout,” Manfio told MMA Fighting. Things were already difficult for our first child. The first year I had no fight. In the very first year, I had two sponsors that gave me a salary. I had no extra money but I could pay everything I needed like the rent, the food, I have enough to live.

” After that first year I lost my sponsors. Because I was desperate to get a fight, but no one wanted me to face them, I did all the things you can imagine. It was difficult .”

to really commit to training for a fight.

Stuck in an impossible situation off a loss to Sidney Outlaw in Titan FC, Manfio couldn’t catch on with any major promotions because they all wanted him to get at least another win. He was unable to find regional opponents because of his reputation as an experienced fighter who could be a tough opponent for anyone trying to attract the attention to organizations such as the UFC or Bellator.

Without any fights available to him, Manfio had to start working odd jobs just to make ends meet for his growing family.

The situation became so severe that the 30-year old lightweight considered quitting his job and moving back to Brazil, where he might find stable employment.

“I started cleaning offices, I cleaned churches, I did security jobs. Manfio said that he taught private classes. “I did barbecues. The most work I did was cleaning cause I could clean offices late at night so I could train in the morning. That was the hardest part. Prior to the outbreak of the pandemic, this was the most difficult time in my entire life. I almost wanted to leave Brazil and go back to Brazil. It was a question of if there would be a job for me. I was desperate.

” In that moment I felt desperate, and my wife informed me that she was expecting our second child. Although it’s very difficult right now, I have two choices. Either I could cry, or I would do anything to make my life better

Manfio decided he was going to give fighting one last try with hopes that some promotion would give him a chance to prove himself. At the time, Manfio was still working whatever job could provide him a paycheck that would also allow him the time to continue training.

He had to rely on that money along with help from his close friend, teammate and two-time PFL champion Natan Schulte to help him survive until he could get the chance to compete again.

“That was the guy that didn’t let me stay starving for a couple of months in my house because I borrowed money from him a lot of times,” Manfio revealed. “I owed him almost $15,000 because he helped me many, many times.

“I had times where I couldn’t pay the rent and he just told me ‘don’t worry, follow God and in the right time he’s going to honor you like he did to me’ cause he already won the title twice.”

Just when it looked like all hope was lost, Manfio got the call that changed his life forever.

“When [my manager] Brian Butler called me, I remember he told me ‘we have a fight’ and I said thank God, where?” Manfio said. “Because we already had nine fights cancelled, I was not ready for No. 10.

“He told me ‘no, it’s going to happen, it’s the PFL.’ I dropped to my knees and started crying.”

According to Manfio, who replaced UFC veteran Olivier Aubin-Mercier in the 2021 PFL season, he earned $10,000 to show and $10,000 to win for his first fight. It was more money than he had ever made as a professional fighter.

He won a victory over Joilton Lautterbach, but this was only the beginning of an unlikely run. Manfio defeated Clay Collard, Anthony Pettis and finally Lolk Radzhabov at the PFL lightweight playoffs.

Manfio became PFL champion but he also took home the $1 million grand prize that came along with the victory.

Looking back now, Manfio admits it was hard not to think about the money considering how much that would mean to his family but he had to compartmentalize his thoughts when approaching that final fight this past October.

” I tried to not think about the money while that fight was taking place,” Manfio stated. I didn’t even think about it until they raised my arm and made me the champion.

“I thought about the belt. Because it has no price, that was huge motivation. You are the millionaire if you transfer one million dollars to me right now. A belt, I can’t transfer to you so that is the legacy.”

Of course it didn’t take long after the event ended for Manfio to realize just how much his life had changed over the course of six months as he evolved from the brink of retirement to becoming a PFL champion with a million dollars in the bank.

The money Manfio earned during his first season in the PFL enabled him to repay Schulte for each dollar borrowed. He was also able to make payments on his bills and other costs to care for his family.

It was most definitely life changing money, although Manfio promises it hasn’t changed him beyond no longer worrying if he’ll make rent at the end of the month.

” This makes our lives much easier,” Manfio stated. “I think right now I can pay for my kids to go to college. Save some money for them. It will change everything. We didn’t know how important it could change our lives because we had never been able to save money. It’s a new experience for us. We have always been very humble.

“But this money also makes the fire in my heart even bigger. This is because I love it. I asked God my whole life to be able to do this. I would like to fight in some of the most exciting fights. This motivated me to train even more. I love the moment that I’m living right now but don’t misunderstand me. The fame doesn’t matter to me. I had no fans when I started. I love this sport before receiving any attention. The reason is still the same. I want to be the best because I love this.”

Winning a second PFL championship would be the biggest prize of all because once again, Manfio isn’t getting lost in the financial gain that comes along with his victories even if he’s no longer starving for fights.

“To be motivated by money is wrong,” Manfio said. Money is the last thing that you will think of when you are caught up in a fight. What motivates me this year is my dream. This is what I have yearned for all my life. To be the best.

” I was absent for three years hoping to get an opportunity fight 2 or 3 fights, maybe even enter the UFC. Now, I live the .”


MMA Fighting’s Guilherme Castro contributed to this article.