Former Dawg Geoff Neal earns UFC contract with second first-round KO in 12 days
By TJ MAXWELL
LAS VEGAS - After a disappointing year with cancelled fights, injuries and life getting in the way; former Copperas Cove Bulldawg Geoffrey Neal (class of 2008) reached the pinnacle of his mixed martial arts career by knocking out two opponents in 12 days to earn a multi-fight contract with the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).
“I don’t feel anything right now,” Neal said in a post-fight interview. “It hasn’t sunk in yet that I’m in the UFC. This has been my goal since I started MMA and now I’m here.
“I just fought 11 days ago then I come in here and get the same results.”
Neal, who was coming off a first-round knockout of Legacy Fighting veteran Bilal Williams on July 14 in the Legacy Fighting Alliance 16, took a fight on UFC president Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series for fighters looking to earn a UFC contract.
Another impressive first-round KO of Chase Waldon up a weight-class in the middleweight (185-pound) division forced White to make a tough decision between the five fight winners on the night and Neal’s name was the first out of his mouth.
“This is a tough one,” said White. “I was in there for a long time debating over this and there are some guys that I’m not going to pick right now that I like a lot but tonight we’re going to take Geoff Neal and Karl Roberson.”
Fighting so recently may have made other fighters think twice about a fight of that caliber, but Neal didn’t hesitate.
“There was no doubt in my mind that I was going to take the fight,” said Neal. “I was at work and my coach called my to tell me that he got me a fight on the Contender Series on Tuesday. I left work right then and told them I wouldn’t be in this weekend. I didn’t care if they fired me because I was planning on coming in here and getting that $10,000 and the UFC contract and it happened.
The short turnaround was a blessing in disguise for Neal and he took full advantage.
“Fighting 11 days ago kind of helped me because the nerves weren’t there,” he said. “I was just ready to repeat what I did a couple weeks ago.”
With very little time for training, Neal just focused on the cardio and mental aspects of his sport.
“I just ran a lot and did some shadow boxing,” he said. “I didn’t have time to get a sparring partner but mentally I was ready and focused.”
White likes the fighting spirit of Neal to take a fight of this magnitude on such short notice but his ability in the cage is what earned him the contract.
“That’s all good stuff,” White said of the two wins in 12 days. “I like guys that steps up like that but it’s all about the fighting and the fights.”
Neal came in to Tuesday’s fight as a late replacement for Gabriel Checco.
Despite fighting outside of his normal 170-pound weight class, Neal said he felt strong and right at home with the bigger fighters.
“I felt like I was even stronger or just as strong,” he said. “My training partner is a beast and I train with 185-ers all day the time so he had nothing for me.”
Neal put the leather on Waldon early and often in the first-round knockout that earned him a spot in the UFC.
He had to fight off a take down and submission attempts but once he got back to his feet, a strong right-left combination forced Waldon against the cage and a left hook to the jaw sent him hurling to the canvass before a barrage of lefts by Neal forced the referee to stop the damage and the fight at the 3:02 left in the round.
“When people usually cover up and back into the cage that means they don’t want no more,” said Neal.
It was a long wait for Neal to hear his fate but he felt confident he did what he needed but also knew White had a tough decision to make.
“I felt like I did enough,” he said. “I thought maybe Kyle Stewart would get it over me but I’m not complaining. I’m blessed to have it.”
Neal has a few fights now to prove he belongs.
“I feel like I’m going to be a good addition to the 170 weight class,” he said. “I come in and try to knock people out and that’s what people want to see.”
Neal wants to get right back in the cage and take advantage of this exciting time in his career and life.
“No breaks,” he said. “I’m injury-free so why take a break if you don’t need to. My next opponent is probably not resting right now so I have to get ready.”
On top of his new career in the UFC, Neal is expecting his first child in December with girlfriend Alex Schonfeld.
“I have a kid on the way,” he said. “I’m excited. We’re not going to do the whole gender reveal thing, We’re just going to wait until the baby’s born.”
Neal is thankful for all the support from family, friends and fans.
“I had an incredible amount of support,” he said. “I just posted about it today and I had everybody flooding my phone with messages.”
Fans can watch for Neal to show up of UFC fight cards in the near future.