Much of the fight game is exactly that, a game. Conor McGregor may have the best game outside the cage — good enough to talk himself into a $100 million payday — but most fighters rely on proving their point inside the cage.
UFC welterweight Neil Magny is probably the most unassuming guy when he’s not fighting. The soft-spoken Army veteran and real-estate investor first entered the Octagon in February 2013. Since then, he has gone 12-5 while climbing his way into the top 15. Along the way, Magny has faced some of the best welterweights in the world.
Magny took a unanimous decision over former UFC welterweight champion Johny Hendricks, but an injury left him in an unusual position on the sidelines for much of 2017. In the late summer, Magny, fresh out of the doctor’s office, was offered a fight against former UFC lightweight champion and newly minted welterweight Rafael dos Anjos at UFC 215. In the latter half of the first round, dos Anjos submitted Magny. It was the fourth submission loss for Magny in his career.
“To be honest with you, I felt great going into that fight,” Magny told Combat Press. “I was super eager. I’m not a guy who likes to have a long training camp, so I felt that having under six weeks to prepare for that fight was just enough time for me. I don’t feel like the time until the fight was a setback at all. Getting down to weight wasn’t an issue, so everything appeared to be going pretty smoothly.
“After the fight, my coaches pointed out that one thing they would have liked to [have] seen me do differently is taken a little more time from the time I was cleared by the doctor to the time of the fight. I walked out of the doctor on a Friday afternoon, and told them I was ready to fight ASAP. By Monday morning, they had that fight scheduled.”
Magny is no stranger to fighting top-level talent. In the span of one year, from August 2015 to August 2016, he faced Demian Maia, Erick Silva, Kelvin Gastelum, Hector Lombard and Lorenz Larkin. However, there is one fight he has wanted for a while. After the loss to dos Anjos, he wasn’t sure where he was going to land next. Less than a month later, he got some wonderful news.
It was announced in October that Magny would face longtime veteran and eighth-ranked welterweight Carlos Condit on the main card at UFC 219 on Dec. 30 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
“I was excited,” Magny said. “This is a fight that I wanted for two years now. One of the things that bothered me after coming back to the gym was that, after losing that fight to RDA, I was like, ‘Am I not where I should be?’ In the back of mind, I wasn’t sure if I was back in a position where I need to rebuild from the bottom to work my way back up. So, when the UFC offered me to fight Carlos Condit, I was all for it. I wanted to dust myself off, get back on the horse, and keep moving forward.”
Lately, Condit has been doing a bit of self-reflection of his own. The “Natural Born Killer” was the former — and final — WEC welterweight champ. He came into the UFC with high expectations, and after going 4-1 in the promotion, he secured the interim welterweight strap with a win over Nick Diaz in February 2012. However, things started to quickly slide. Condit lost a title shot to reigning champ Georges St-Pierre and then dropped his next one to the aforementioned Hendricks. He picked up a win over Martin Kampmann, but ultimately destroyed his ACL in a fight with current champ Tyron Woodley.
Condit was on the bench for over a year. When he finally got back, he scored a TKO win over Thiago Alves, but dropped back-to-back fights to Robbie Lawler and the aforementioned Maia. The loss to Maia was over a year ago, but it put Condit at 2-5 in his last seven fights. Condit took some time off. He was even contemplating retirement.
Condit has always had an extremely dangerous submission game. Of his 30 pro wins, an impressive 13 have come by tapout. However, he hasn’t had a submission finish in almost 10 years.
The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu brown belt Magny feels comfortable on the ground, but most of his losses have come on the mat. He decided to supplement his camp at Elevation Fight Team with some outside help.
“I changed up a few things,” Magny explained. “I added some more jiu-jitsu training with Eliot Marshall, and some other practitioners as well. I brought in a couple different guys, giving me different looks leading up to this fight. They’ve been getting me out of my comfort zone and showing me some things that I’m not used to.
“One of the guys I’ve been training with is Matt Jubera, along with Eliot Marshall. I feel the two of them have very similar styles, but Matt’s a bit closer to my size, so he explains things to me in a different light than Eliot’s able to. I get the best of both worlds, because Eliot’s jiu-jitsu is more MMA-based, geared toward controlling positions and things like that, but working with Matt, he’s been showing me how to get those finishes and how to work the positions where I tend to struggle.”
Jubera is the most decorated BJJ competitor in Colorado. He won the IBJJF Master’s World Championships just four months ago. Jubera is a black belt under the legendary Ribeiro brothers, Saulo and Xande, and is a training partner and good friend of Rafael Lovato Jr., who is currently undefeated in MMA. Magny is pulling out all the stops in preparing for Condit, because he is prepared to prove he belongs at the top.
UFC 219 will close out a fairly idle year for Magny. He is accustomed to fighting a minimum of three, but as many as five, times per calendar year. To have his second fight come on Dec. 30 has him feeling a little antsy.
“The biggest thing for me going into 2018 is that I want to have another active year,” Magny said. “Because of injury and other things going on in 2017, I wasn’t as active as I like to be. I look forward to having an amazing end to 2017 and starting 2018 off being active and putting on impressive fights for the fans.”
There is still a week and a half left in 2017. Magny has one of his toughest opponents yet in front of him. The loss to dos Anjos was a setback that kept him out of the top-10 rankings, so to get another top-10 opponent is huge. A win over Condit will put Magny back in the mix, and it will certainly build a lot of positive momentum as he enters 2018.
“I can promise an action-packed fight,” said Magny. “This is a fight where I’m going out there to prove that I belong in the top of the division. Whether it’s Carlos Condit or someone else, I’m planning on proving a point for the fans and the people at the UFC I need to impress.”