Jimi Manuwa was 28 when he made his professional mixed martial arts debut in a leisure centre in Portsmouth.

A decade later - Manuwa is now preparing to fight at the 02 Arena in Greenwich in front of a likely sell out crowd on March 17.

Along the way he has picked up 17 victories and just three losses.

Despite going from beating opponents in leisure centres to fighting in Las Vegas in the UFC - none of it has come as a surprise to Manuwa.

"This is exactly what I imagined," he told News Shopper.

"Headlining main events in different cards across the world is exactly what I envisaged. This is what I aimed for."

The 37-year-old is preparing for a rematch with Poland's Jan Blachowicz on March 17 at the O2 Arena in a light-heavyweight bout.

Manuwa was deservedly awarded the decision win last time, but he believes his evolution as a fighter will result in a knockout inside three rounds in their upcoming clash, despite being impressed with Blachowicz's previous two wins.

The Pole will have to seek revenge in his opponents hometown of London - something which Maunwa believes suits him.

He said: "I don't travel well. I remember trying to train in America and I had to leave after the first week. I hate being away from family and friends.

"My family has always been supportive of me fighting. They always push me and say not to hurt myself and to be careful in training.

"They pat me on the back when I have done well. I tend not to congratulate myself because I always have my eye on the prize. I won't be satisfied until I get to the number one spot.

"I don't look back on what I have done or how far I have come. I have the belief that I can be number one."

The knock out artist said much of his success is down to Keddles Gym in Orpington and Nova Forca in Epsom - two places where he first learned martial arts.

"They have been the backbone to my training and my success. We all grow together and my game and their game rises together."

Manuwa, from Croydon, now splits his time between London and Stockholm for training.

The last time Manuwa fought in the 02 Arena - he knocked out Corey Anderson in March 2017.

He hopes that another win at the same venue one year later will take him one step closer to a shot at the UFC light-heavyweight title.

After that, maybe he can then finally start to look back on how far he has come.

Tickets to UFC FIGHT NIGHT® LONDON go on general sale on Friday, February 2 via AXS and Ticketmaster