Bellator Dublin: Melvin Manhoef faces Yoel Romero after injury to stop the Burglars.

Venue: 3Arena, Dublin Date: Friday, September 23
Coverage: Live on BBC iPlayer and the BBC Sport website and app from 6pm BST, with the main card also live on BBC Three from 9pm BST

Melvin Manhoef was in Paris promoting his upcoming fight against Yoel Romero when he heard the disturbing news that men might be planning to break into his home.

His wife and children had found sheets of paper pushed under his front door at his house in Holland, a trick used by thieves who assume that if the paper is not removed for days, no one is home.

After his family watched the neighbor’s dash cam, they discovered a man they didn’t know putting the paper in and a car they’d never seen before waiting around.

Manhoef immediately rushed home.

“At that moment my wife and children didn’t feel safe because they didn’t know what could happen. I was scared for them and I came back from Paris,” 46-year-old Manhoef tells BBC Sport.

After arriving home while her family was out, Manhoef decided to wait outside her house in her car, hoping to question the man when he arrived again.

More than an hour later, the three men appeared in the car Manhoef saw on the dashcam footage. They spotted Manhoef and drove off.

Manhoef sped after them, rammed their car off the road and detained all three men before the 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, going crazy saying ‘my family’ and this and that, and I went up to their car and threw one of my fists through the window, opening my whole arm.

“I got hold of the boys and screamed and pulled them out. I didn’t hit them, but I had to say it, I lost my temper.”

Manhoef said he drove “about 120 km/h” (75 mph) down residential streets to catch the men.

Yoel Romero and Melvin Manhoef, left, are both nearing the end of their careers

He will not be 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] “Hey, do something with your life, but not this, man. Don’t steal from people. I know life is hard, but don’t do it.”

Manhoef injured his hand by smashing through a car window, which forced the postponement of the match against Romero.

The rescheduled lightweight bout will be the 51st and final bout of Manhoef’s 27-year MMA career at Bellator 285 in Dublin on Friday.

“It’s an honor to fight Romero”

Since Manhoef’s debut in 1995, he has won 32 fights, lost 15, drawn one, with two ending in no contests.

His last was a loss to Corey Anderson in 2020.

Manhoef has experienced many changes during his MMA career, where a sport and its athletes, once marginalized in most places around the world, are thriving.

Manhoef remains grateful that he was able to turn his passion for fighting into his profession.

“The crazy thing is, we’re getting a good salary now. It was a lot less back then,” he said.

“The sport is really accepted now and people see you as a real athlete.

“Of course, you don’t do sports for money, you start as a hobby, then you put in work and then there is work.

He continued: “We put our lives on the line and do a lot of things. This year I’ve broken my jaw, my thumb, my tibia, so many things, but it pays well and I love it. .

“This is my passion, so I’m very happy to be able to turn my passion into my job.”

In Cuba’s Romero, Manhoef faces an opponent he likes is a veteran of the sport.

Romero, 45, is a former UFC middleweight title challenger who debuted in 2009 after a wrestling background.

His last fight was a dominant win over Alex Polizzi May at Bellator 280 in Paris.

“Him [Romero] is one of the greatest fighters I’ve ever fought,” Manhoef said.

“He’s also a guy who did a lot in sports, especially wrestling. It’s a great honor to fight him.

“We can do our thing and see who’s the best. That’s the most interesting thing for a fighter because that’s what you want to know. You want to be the best, so you have to fight the best.”