LAS VEGAS – What do you do if you’re at work, only eight days removed from your last MMA fight, and you get a call from your coach to fight again in three days?
If you’re Geoff Neal, you say yes. You win. And you land a pretty sweet gig in the process.
Neal (8-2), who normally competes at welterweight, was one of two fighters who earned a UFC contract after Tuesday’s Dana White’s Contender Series 3 event, which streamed on UFC Fight Pass from The Ultimate Fighter Gym in Las Vegas. More impressive than taking the fight at 185 pounds on such short notice was the fact that he was able to finish Chase Waldon (11-3) the same way he dispatched Bilal Williams at LFA 16 just 11 days before: with a first-round TKO.
Neal knew that, more than a win, a career opportunity was on the line on Tuesday. So was there any hesitation to accept it?
“There was no doubt in my mind that I was going to take the fight,” Neal said. “I was at work, and my coach called me. He was like, ‘Hey, I got you a fight in the Contender Series on Tuesday.’ I left work right then and there. I told them, ‘I’m not going to be here this weekend. I’m gone.’ I didn’t care if they fired me or not.
“I was planning on coming here, getting the $10,000 and getting the UFC contract, and it happened.”
But don’t worry, everyone.
“I’m pretty sure I’ve got a job to go back to,” Neal said. “They love me there, so they’re not going to do that to me.”
Fighters who compete on the event series are not only fighting for a purse and a win on their records. After their displays, they have to sit around together and wait to see if UFC President Dana White deemed any of them worthy of a UFC contract.
Considering that a win – as impressive as it may have been – might not be enough to cut it, this can make for a somewhat nerve-wrecking experience. Neal, for one, thought he’d done enough to earn a contract. But he also thought Kyle Stewart – who knocked out Jason Jackson that night – could get it over him.
Still, he wasn’t all that fazed by the wait.
“It was like waiting to see if you’d get in trouble or not, like if your mom sends you in the corner,” Neal said. “There were no nerves in there. I was just happy that I won. It was a relief that I got all of this out of the way. Two fights within 12 days – happy about that.”
With a baby on the way, a two-fight winning streak and a UFC contract in hand, one would figure 26-year-old Neal is on cloud nine, right? Well, probably. But he might need a little extra time to fully process his emotions.
“I don’t feel anything right now,” Neal said. “It hasn’t sunk in yet that I’m actually in the UFC now. This has been my goal since I’ve started MMA, and now I’m here.”
To hear more from Neal on his career-changing win, check out the video above.
And for more on Dana White’s Contender Series 3, check out the MMA Events section of the site.