The UFC flyweight speaks to Newstalk.com ahead of his bout with Alexandre Pantoja in Glasgow
After his two scheduled retirement bouts with Ian McCall didn’t make it to the Octagon, a lot of people wondered if 37-year-old Neil '2 Tap' Seery had hung up his gloves.
The truth is, Seery didn't know if he had himself. For months he went back and forth debating whether he would take to the cage one final time for his swan song, until Sunday night, when he agreed to meet Brazilian prospect and former RFA champion Alexandre Pantoja at UFC Glasgow on July 16.
For the Finglas flyweight, it was hard to prepare himself for another camp after his first opportunity to face McCall was taken from him at the eleventh hour, when food poisoning forced the celebrated American from the UFC Belfast card on the morning before their clash.
"Honestly, I did think about packing it in," said Seery.
"I was really frustrated the way things had played out in Belfast. The last time I fought was against [Kyoji] Horiguchi last May.
"The Belfast thing was a complete disaster. I don’t think I've ever been as ready for a fight in my whole life. I had one of the best camps of my career.
"I was working with Patrick Wixted throughout that camp. I was put him for nearly eight weeks. I can remember when we had just started training for that camp, I pulled Patrick to the side and I said, 'You’re going to be sick of me by the end of this.'
"Near the end, sure enough, Pato said, 'You were right, I am sick of you now!'
"Whatever it was about that camp, I just had a real drive to me in the lead up to the fight. Patrick came up to Belfast with me for the fight and we had a great week up there. We had great training, he’s a great body to move around with.
"It couldn’t have been better."
Although Seery has a stern demeanor, you rarely see him angry. After the news broke of McCall’s withdrawal, he was furious. Not with McCall, but because he was looking forward to finishing his career in the Octagon that night.
"I didn't want to get on social media and slate McCall straight after he pulled out because we all have our own problems. The last thing he would need in that situation is me breathing down his neck, giving him stick.
"I was sick about it. In my head, I wanted to finish my career last year in Belfast. With everything that happened, it just didn’t pan out that way."
Neil Seery (right) and his prospective opponent Ian McCall were scheduled to fight in Belfest, before the American pull out of the fight with food poisoning. Image: ©INPHO/Presseye/Brian Little
The fight was re-booked for Brooklyn three months later. Seery tried his best to get himself back to the peak condition he had been in for Belfast, but admits he couldn’t maintain the same mental intensity as the bout grew nearer.
"Hand on heart, I was nowhere near as ready for the Brooklyn card as I was for Belfast.
"The camp had been so perfect the first time, I really didn’t have the same confidence going into the fight. I think it’s very difficult for athletes to time when they will be in peak condition.
"I was in peak condition in Belfast and then I had to get myself all the way back to that 12 weeks later in Brooklyn. Physically, it’s never a problem, but to get mentally prepared is the difficult part.
"I mean that. I go up to that gym and I put it on all of the young lads in there. I make it my business to show them that I’m still here. I want them to hate me by the end of it. That’s the same in strength and conditioning and everything. That’s a mental thing for me. It always has been.
"I wasn’t quite on the same level ahead of the Brooklyn card, but I was willing to fight because I knew it would all be finished after that. I was happy to fight knowing that I would hang up my gloves after it."
Two weeks out from the fight, the passing of his mother-in-law rattled Seery. The Dubliner knew where he was needed most at the time and didn’t hesitate to make the call to the UFC.
"When Sinead’s mother passed away we were two weeks out from that fight. When that happened, there was no chance in the world that I was going to make that fight.
"That woman was like a mother to me. I know people will say I should’ve put it to the back of my head and gone to Brooklyn, but I was completely heartbroken. My whole family was heartbroken.
"My family is number one for me, it always will be. They needed me in that time. There was no way I was going to fight after getting that news.
"When McCall eventually pulled out again, a lot of people were getting on to me saying 'You should’ve gone over', or whatever, but I had already mentally checked out of that fight. I just felt sorry for the lad who stepped in to replace me."
Seery needs to fight one more time for closure. He wasn’t happy hanging up his gloves after the Belfast "disaster" and without even making it to Brooklyn, he never got the chance to soak up the buzz of fight week, something he has always relished.
It’s not a selfish thing, really. The soon-to-be father of five is satisfied with what he has accomplished in his career. As much as he loves fighting, there is one thing that he likes even more than that — entertaining the masses.
"I just want to go out and do what I always have done. I want to go out and be a crowd-pleaser," he said.
"I’d ask anybody who has followed my career from start to finish to show me one of my fights that wasn’t exciting. Honestly, I want to hear it. Even when I lost I was out there trying to kill my opponent.
"Sure, there were the fights where I walked straight into a kneebar or a triangle, but that’s the game. That’s going to happen.
"Who changes the channel when I’m fighting? Nobody. I just want one more fight like that so I can put a line through this and say it’s done.
"I’ve outlasted a lot of people in the UFC. I’ve been on the roster for three years, I’ve had six fights under the banner and I’ve never been finished. I was already 34 when I signed on the dotted line for the UFC and every single one of my fights was a contender for a bonus.
"I’m happy with what I’ve done."
Neil Seery celebrates his win over Jon Delos Reyes at UFC Fight Night Dublin in 2015. Image: ©INPHO/Cathal Noonan
Seery has spoiled the trajectory of numerous prospects over the years. Just like in the strength and conditioning sessions alongside his Team Ryano faithful, he wants to show Pantajo that he is still able to hang in there with the best that the UFC have to offer when they face off in Glasgow.
"I want to show this guy that I can still hang with anyone in that division. People say that your body slows down. That’s true, but you’ve just got to find different ways to win when that happens.
"I can remember before I fought Chris Beal. He was 10-0, he had just moved down to flyweight and people thought he would automatically join the title conversation if he beat me.
"I went in there and I up-ended him. It was probably the best fight I’ve ever had. People will always talk about the Pickett fight, but Chris Beal was the best fight of my career.
"That was in 30000-seat stadium in Stockholm and I got in there and I mauled him. Two fights later he was out of the UFC.
"I changed that guy’s career. I know that sounds bad, but I was there to win a fight and that’s what I did."