|Place: 3 Arena, Dublin Date: Friday, September 23|
|Coverage: Live coverage on BBC iPlayer and the BBC Sport website and app from 6pm BST, with the main card also live on BBC Three from 9pm|
Melvin Manhoef was in Paris promoting his upcoming fight against Yoel Romero when he heard some disturbing news: men might be planning to rob his house.
His wife and children found sheets of paper stuffed under the door at his home in the Netherlands; it’s a trick used by thieves, and if they don’t receive the paper in days, no one is home.
After his family saw the footage on the neighbor’s camera, they found a man they didn’t know posting the paper, and a car they had never seen waiting nearby.
Manhoef immediately went home.
“At that moment my wife and children didn’t feel safe, they didn’t know what could happen. I was scared for them, so I came back from Paris,” 46-year-old Manhoef told BBC Sport.
After arriving home, while his family was away, Manhoef decided to wait in his car outside his house to ask if the man would return.
More than an hour later, three men appeared in the car Manhoef had seen on camera. They saw Manhoef and left.
Manhoef gave chase, ran the car off the road and apprehended the three men before police arrived.
“What I did was very dangerous, but I did what I had to do to protect my family,” he said.
“I got out of the car screaming, crazy saying ‘my family’ and this and that, and I went to their car and I just slammed the window, opening my whole hand.
“I got the guys, I was yelling and I got them out. I didn’t hit them, but I had to say, I was going crazy.”
Manhoef says he drove “about 120 km/h” (75 mph) down residential streets to catch the men.
He has not been charged for the incident in March.
“I know it’s a risk [to speed] but it was to protect the family. It’s not good, but the adrenaline takes over. This is who I am and I want to protect my family,” he said.
“I told them [while he waited for the police to arrive] ‘Listen, do something with your life, but not this, man. Don’t steal from people. I know life is hard, but don’t do this.”
Manhoef injured his hand by punching through the car window which forced him to postpone the fight against Romero.
The rescheduled lightweight bout will be the 51st and final fight of Manhoef’s 27-year MMA career at Bellator 285 in Dublin on Friday.
“It’s an honor to face Romero”
Since his debut in 1995, Manhoef has won 32 fights, lost 15, drawn one and ended in two no contests.
His last loss was against Corey Anderson in 2020.
Manhoef has seen many changes in his career in MMA, where a sport once neglected in most parts of the world and its athletes flourish.
Manhoef remains grateful that he was able to turn his passion for wrestling into his profession.
“It’s crazy that we get a good salary now. Back then it was a lot less,” he said.
“Now the sport is really accepted, and people see you as a real athlete.
“Of course, you don’t do sport for money, you start as a hobby, then you start working, and then it’s work.
He continued: “We risk our lives and we do a lot of things. This year I have a broken jaw, a broken thumb, a broken thumb, so many things, but they pay you well and I like it. .
“It’s my passion, so I’m very happy that I was able to turn my passion into my job.”
In Cuba’s Romero, Manhoef faces an opponent who, like himself, is a veteran of the sport.
Romero, 45, is a former UFC middleweight title challenger who made his debut in 2009, following his fighting background.
It was his last fight Alex Polizzi’s dominant victory at Bellator 280 in Paris in May.
“He [Romero] he’s one of the greatest fighters I’ve ever fought,” Manhoef said.
“He’s a guy who did a lot in this sport, especially wrestling. It’s an honor to fight him.
“We can do our own thing and see who’s the best. For a fighter, that’s the most interesting thing because that’s what you want to know. You want to be the best, you have to fight the best.”