Tuesday 24 April 2018

Dubliner Seery looking to replace the Conor McGregor void at UFC Rotterdam

Fergus Ryan

Fergus Ryan

This weekend Neil Seery makes his sixth UFC appearance at UFC Rotterdam against a highly ranked Japanese fighter in Kyoji Horiguchi. At one point it looked like Seery would never make it to the UFC; now that he’s in there, he has lasted longer than most.

At 34, Seery was older than most in the UFC let alone among those who were making their promotional debuts.

He had built a solid reputation on the European circuit but MMA commentators had been split on whether the Team Ryano fighter would ever make it to the UFC.

Some pointed to his so-so record of 13 wins and 9 losses at the time and said it just wasn’t good enough. His supporters pointed to his record as a flyweight (5-1) and his Cage Warriors world title, believing he’d done enough.

What everyone agreed on was that his fighting style was always entertaining. Seery comes to fight and regardless of whether he wins, loses or draws, you can be pretty sure he left it all in ring.

Speaking to Independent.ie before his upcoming fight at UFC Rotterdam, Seery believes this could be the pinnacle of his career – “This is the biggest test of my career by far. I'm looking forward to it. It'll be good to see where I am in my career, whether I can hang with the best flyweights in the world and I think I can.”

In his post-fight interview at his last fight at UFC Dublin in October, Seery stated he felt his title aspirations might be over but that he wanted to fight big names and put on a show for the fans.

His coach Andy Ryan told us he disagrees with his charge and believes he is still a threat in the UFC’s flyweight division. It looks like the UFC thinks the Finglas man has more to give also. His opponent is 11 years younger and ranked a lot higher in the UFC’s flyweight division, currently at #6. This is either a huge opportunity or Seery is being sacrificed as a stepping stone for Horiguchi to progress.

Thing is, Neil Seery only fights one way. He is the MMA equivalent of the ‘full court press’ in basketball. He is relentless in attack and smothering in defence. He never stops trying or never stops fighting whether it’s going his way or not. A stepping stone, he is not.

19 July 2014; Neil Seery, right, in action against Phil Harris during their flyweight bout. UFC Fight Night Dublin, The O2, Dublin. Picture credit: Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE

This has been the defining characteristic in his career; Seery’s real strength as a fighter is his competitive spirit.

“When you've got a big heart and you're willing to fight, ye know, that's all that it comes down to with me. I'm always willing and dangerous in a fight. It’s gonna be a tough fight. I just have to drag Horiguchi into a war. I'm not going into this fight to try and scrape a decision, I go into every single fight trying to finish people and that’s what I plan on doing on the 8th May.”

His two losses in the UFC so far have been decisions; three round wars.

Seery’s entry to the UFC set the stall out for his UFC career even though it was more about good fortune than a good fight record. Londoner Brad Pickett was left without a dance partner when his original opponent Ian McCall was forced to withdraw due to injury. The fight card had already been decimated by pull-outs and the UFC couldn’t afford to take the hometown hero off the card.

However, no UFC flyweights were putting their hand up to fight the top 10 ranked Pickett in his back yard; no-one except Neil Seery.

With time running, out the UFC had no other option. There had been an outpouring on social media in support of Seery. Even Brad Pickett had said he’d fight Seery in the absence of anyone else. Woody Allen said he always believed ‘80% of success is showing up’. In the end this was Seery’s strong suit – he was the only one willing to show up and fight.

Seery is not taking his next challenge lightly, but he is looking forward to the challenge – “I was surprised I was offered the fight because Horiguchi is ranked #6 and I'm not even in the top 15. But I more or less asked for it if you listen to my interviews I'm always asking for exciting fights and big names. I've got what I asked for. I’m excited about it. It’s a very hard fight. He’s quick, elusive, a good striker and he can make you miss and make you pay so I'll have to be at my tip top best to hang with him.”

Some fighters obsess about their record rather than the fighting. Sometimes it can appear harder to stay in the UFC than get in there in the first place. Seery was the third Irish fighter into the UFC. The ‘Fighting Irish’ number swelled to eight at its peak. With the retirement of Cathal Pendred and Paddy Holohan, in addition to Paul Redmond and Norman Parke getting cut, Seery has survived with Conor McGregor, Aisling Daly and Joseph Duffy.

The threat of a loss or worse, getting cut by the UFC, doesn’t bother Seery. He has achieved more for longer than a lot of commentators would have expected of him.

True to form, Seery has a very uncomplicated approach to his career, just like each fight – “When you're coming off a loss you tend to panic and try and start grinding out decisions just to get that win. Me on the other hand, and I've said this loads of times before, I don’t care. I go for broke every time and if I'm gone, I'm gone. I try to finish fights all the time that's what you're best off doing.”

Neil Seery vs Kyoji Horiguchi is the featured fight on the UFC Fight Pass Prelims portion of UFC Fight Night: Overeem vs. Arlovski. They begin at 3:30pm GMT. The Prelims proper will be screened from 5:00pm GMT with the main card starting at 7:00pm GMT on BT Sport part of the Setanta pack.

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