Venue: 3Arena, Dublin Date: Friday, 23 September
Coverage: Live coverage on BBC iPlayer and the BBC Sport website and app from 18:00 BST, with the main card also live on BBC Three from 21:00 BST

Melvin Manhoef was in Paris promoting an upcoming bout against Yoel Romero when he heard some worrying news – men could be planning to burgle his home.

His wife and children at his house in the Netherlands had found sheets of paper pushed under his front door – a trick used by thieves who assume if the paper is not picked up within days, then nobody is home.

After his family checked footage on their neighbour’s camera, they discovered a man who they didn’t recognise placing the paper, and a car waiting around that they had never seen before.

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, so I came back from Paris,” Manhoef, 46, tells BBC Sport.

After arriving home, while his family were out, Manhoef decided to wait in his car outside his house in hope of questioning the man if he arrived again.

More than an hour later, three men turned up in the car Manhoef had seen on the camera footage. They spotted Manhoef and drove off.

Manhoef sped after them, rammed their car off the road and apprehended all three men before the police arrived.

“What I did was very dangerous but to protect my family I did what I had to do,” he said.

“I got out of the car shouting, going crazy saying ‘my family’ and this and that, and I went over to their car and threw one punch through the window, opening all my hand.

“I got the guys, I was shouting and pulled them out. I didn’t hit them, but I had to say it, I was going out of my mind.”

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

Melvin Manhoef and Yoel Romero pose for pictures
Yoel Romero, left, and Melvin Manhoef are both coming to the end of their careers

He is not facing any charges for the incident, which occurred in March.

“I know it is a risk [to speed] but it was to protect the family. It isn’t good, but the adrenaline takes over. This is who I am and I want to protect my family,” he said.

“I said to 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 punching through the car window which forced his bout against Romero to be postponed.

The rescheduled light-heavyweight fight, which will be the 51st and final bout of Manhoef’s 27-year MMA career, will take place at Bellator 285 in Dublin on Friday.

‘It’s an honour to fight Romero’

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

His last was a defeat against Corey Anderson in 2020.

Manhoef has experienced a lot of change throughout his career in MMA, where a sport and its athletes once marginalised in most places around the world now flourish.

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

“What is crazy is we get good pay now. Back then it was a lot less,” he said.

“The sport is really accepted now, and people see you as a true sportsman.

“Of course, you don’t do the sport for the money, you start as a hobby, so then you put in work, and then it is a job.

He continued: “We put our lives in danger and do a lot of things. This year I’ve broken my jaw, my thumb, my shin is split open, so many things, but you get paid well for it and I like it.

“It is my passion so I’m very glad I could 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 a background in wrestling.

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

“He [Romero] is one of the greatest fighters I have fought against,” said Manhoef.

“He is also a guy who did a lot in the sport, especially wrestling. It is a great honour to fight him.

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

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