EXCLUSIVE: Neil Seery will hang up his gloves after UFC Belfast

The Dubliner fights Ian McCall in November

EXCLUSIVE: Neil Seery will hang up his gloves after UFC Belfast

Mandatory Credit Β©INPHO/Cathal Noonan

In the last three years Neil Seery has gone from relative unknown to cult hero, and on November 19th in Belfast, the Dubliner will make his final walk to the Octagon where he will meet one of the greatest flyweights in MMA history, Ian McCall.

Speaking on the day that his colossal clash at the SSE Arena was announced, the former Cage Warriors champion revealed that as the years tick on he’s finding it harder to keep up with the young guns in the division.

“I’m 37 years of age. I’m looking at the younger lads coming through the ranks, how they’re training and adjusting, and it’s hard for me to keep up with that with a family, a full-time job and everything else I’m managing,” explained the father of four.

“(Kyogi) Horiguchi was a completely different fighter to me than he was against Demetrious Johnson. I had never felt a flyweight as strong as he was that night. That’s how much these guys are training, they can completely change their approach in just a year.

“These guys are full-time athletes. I’ve never been a full-time athlete and I’ve hung in there with those guys. But again, I’m not here to just hang in there with people just so I can say I’m in the UFC. I’m happy with what I’ve done in the sport. Now is the right time.

“I’m going to get to walk away while I’m still in the UFC and not a lot of people get to do that. A lot of people get cut from the UFC and then try to put a run back together to get back in.

“I’ve made this decision. My final fight will be against a man whose style I have admired for a long time. The fact that I get to have my final fight in Belfast is just a really nice bonus.”

The Horiguchi fight back in May highlighted the rising calibre of the younger generation of flyweights, but ‘2 Tap’ claimed that he didn’t make the decision to hang up his gloves until he had signed to fight McCall.

 “When we got the news about the McCall fight I sat down with my wife and we decided that this would be the last one. I told Andy (Ryan) I wanted the McCall fight because it’s a fight that excites me. He’s one of the best flyweights of all time and I think we all agreed that it’s a good fight to go out on.”

Every time the Finglas stalwart goes into a fight camp his schedule gets completely clogged up with his various commitments.

This morning, Seery woke up 5.30am to make it to a strength and conditioning session in Artane. Starting work at 7.30am Seery cycles in and out to make up an extra ten miles of conditioning before he joins the rest of the Team Ryano ranks on the Jamestown Road for MMA training.

“It’s getting hard to justify going off the radar all the time to prepare for these fights,” he said. “We’ve got a young family and I have to spend all my time running around to different training sessions and keeping my job on top of that. It’s not like I’m getting hundreds of thousands here.

“UFC is about being recognised as one of the elite fighters in the world. At the end of the day, that recognition is what it is all about. The vast majority of fighters walk away from the sport with no money. I’m very proud that I got to fight in the UFC.

“Really, I just want to spend more time with my two boys. I spent my whole life running around after my two daughters in between fights. They’re 16 and 12 years of age now. In the blink of an eye, they’ve grown up. I can’t believe how quickly it’s happened. Now, I just want to enjoy my time with my boys.

“They’ll all be there to watch it in Belfast. Win, lose or draw it will be a good buzz. I’m going to fight Ian McCall and then I’m going to walk away.”

It seems fitting that Seery will finish his career on Irish soil because of how much he means to MMA fans on the Emerald Isle. In every single one of his bouts, Seery always went out on his shield and never shied away from the exchanges with his opponents.

Even considering the marquee names that have bested him in his storied career – Brad Pickett, Louis Smolka, Kyogi Horiguchi – each one of them was put in significant danger by the Irish veteran on route to their victories.

Seery last fought on Irish soil last November with a win over Jon Delos Reyes. Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Cathal Noonan

In a time where marketing ability has become nearly as important as skill in the Octagon, Seery is glad that he will be remembered for his fighting.

“What other legacy would I want?” he asked. “I put it all out there for the people every time. I might not be good at marketing myself but I know I’m good at fighting. If that’s how people remember me after I retire I would be very proud of that.

“I’m happy that I was signed before a lot of Irish guys and I’ve lasted longer than a lot of them too. What people don’t understand is, I wanted to be the last one in there out of that group too, but it’s just the right time to go.

“This is finishing on a high. I’m fighting for the best organisation in the world against one of the best guys in the world on home soil.”

Seery has promised to leave everything in the Octagon for his swan song.

“I leave it all in the Octagon every time I fight and nothing will change because this is my last one,” he explained. “People like the way I fight and I want to give them one last show. There’s no point in me changing anything now. Sure, you can change to win, but when you’re exciting even when you lose you won’t have a problem.”

There is a certain recognition that comes along with McCall calling for a fight with Seery. After having two fighters pull out of contests with him at the eleventh hour, Seery believes the American has laid down the gauntlet to him because ‘Uncle Creepy’ knows that he will show up and fight after signing on the dotted line.

“He knows I’m going to go in there and try to kill him. There're no two ways about that. Just because I’m walking away after this doesn’t mean I’m going to walk in there, tap this lad on the back and get out of there. I’d rather not fight.

“Does it mean I’m going to put more into this camp because it’s my last one? Honestly, no. I’ve worked my whole life to reach a level where I can compete with these guys. Can I beat Ian McCall that way? Absolutely.

“I know how good Ian McCall is. The dogs on the street know how good Ian McCall is, but I’m watching this guy and I can see a way to beat him. He’s exciting and that’s why I’ve taken fights with a lot of these guys. Horiguchi is exciting, Louis Smolka is exciting, Delos Reyes in exciting–that’s why I wanted those fights.”

Should Seery have his hand raised in Belfast there will be many people that will call for him to have one more fight given McCall’s status. For Seery, his decision to draw a line in the sand with the Belfast bout is final, knowing that many fighters will look for any reason to justify staying in the game, which often leads to problems.

“I’m going in there to win so, of course, I’m preparing myself for what people will say if I win. I don’t care what people will say. When you’re a fighter you’re always going to try and justify one more fight that’s why I think it was good to decide on this retirement. It just keeps plodding on and that’s when people get hurt.

“Mark my words, this is the last one. I’m going to go in there, I’ll march forward from the first bell and I’ll try to take Ian McCall’s head off. I’ll do it one more time and then I’m walking away with my head held high.”