Neil Seery: I’ll be looking for the knockout on Saturday night

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This week, PETER CARROLL caught up with Cage Warriors flyweight world champion, Neil “2 Tap” Seery, who makes his first title defense this Saturday night at Cage Warriors 62 in Newcastle’s Metro Radio Arena where he faces off against experienced UFC veteran, Ulysses Gomez.

On Saturday June 1 Neil “2 Tap” Seery had what many people believed to be a career defining moment, winning the inaugural Cage Warriors flyweight championship matchup in front of his home crowd in Dublin’s Helix venue.

Clinging to a tricolour as he was held aloft by one of the nation’s MMA pioneers, his coach Andy Ryan, it seemed the journey that had spanned over a decade had come to a head with the ecstatic gathering on their feet showing their approval for the new champion.

Despite the occasion and the perceived mainstream obscurity up to that point, the 34 year old Team Ryano man doesn’t seem to connect as dramatically with a moment considered a classic by the vast majority of Irish MMA fans.

“The big thing for me from that night was getting a win in Dublin,” he said. “To be honest, I didn’t care that much about the title or anything that came with it, all I ever care about is getting the win.

“As big as it was on the night, I don’t think that was the fight that made everyone stand up and take notice of me. I’d say that was probably the Marin fight when I dropped him with the body kick a couple of months before that.

“Before he fought me he had been in a war with Paul McVeigh, one of the best fighters out there, and they went to a decision. He’s a great fighter and for me to put him away so quickly definitely turned a few heads,” said the flyweight champion.

The stinging liver kick landed on Marin propelled the Dubliner to the top of the Cage Warriors flyweight bracket. Nevertheless, it wasn’t just a matter of showing up to the championship contest for the veteran campaigner, with his challenger, Mikael Silander, looking a dead cert to claim the strap at one point.

Caught in arm triangle in the opening round of the title bout, the Finn looked to have Seery beaten as he locked in the choke, first standing before transitioning to the ground. However, after appearing on the brink of consciousness the Irishman escaped and got right back to the task at hand, eventually taking the win in the third round via armbar.

Although it was nervy moment for the audience on the night, Seery revealed that his tendency to escape chokes is well known on the mats in Baldoyle.

“I’ve always been hard to choke, any of my training partners would tell you as much. When it comes to chokes I’d prefer to go out than tap. It’s different with arms and legs – I need them – even in training I’ll go asleep sometimes.

“Silander had the choke on really tight when we were standing, but once we hit the ground it was fine. Had he kept it standing I’d say I would’ve definitely went out though,” he admitted.

The champion’s choke defence will be put to test this Saturday when he faces off against Ulysses Gomez. A decorated grappler, six of the American’s nine wins have come via guillotine or rear naked choke.

However, the BJJ brown belt’s strengths are something that Seery is very aware of and he admitted that he expects nothing less than a grappling based game plan from his counterpart in Newcastle.

“There’s no doubt about it – he’s a good fighter, to get the call up from the UFC says a lot about him,” acknowledged the Dubliner. “I saw his two fights in there and they weren’t the best, not a lot happened. I think for our matchup he’ll be using a different game plan and he’ll probably go back to his jiu jitsu base.

“Guys have said they’ll stand and bang with me before and then as soon as I crack them they start diving in for takedowns. I’m sure Ulysses will be looking to play to his strengths, but as far as the ground is concerned, there’s not a lot that I haven’t seen.”

Founded by judo and jiu jitsu black belt Andy Ryan, Team Ryano is a well-known stronghold for some of Ireland’s top grappling competitors. With no shortage of talented judokas, jiu jitsu players and fellow mixed martial artists to mix it up with on the ground, Seery is confident of holding his own with Gomez.

“I’m put through my paces everyday by some of the best grapplers around and I’ve been putting a lot of work in on my ground game. I’ve been around a long time, I’m a purple belt, but there’s always the chance of getting caught in this game.

“Every person that walks through the doors of our gym wants to be the best so it gives me no chance to start slacking. It keeps you sharp training with guys like Paul Redmond and Myles Price, there’s so many talented guys I could name, but if you try and coast your way through a session you’ll get sparked.

“I’ve been down training in SBG with John Kavanagh too, they always leave the door open for me to come down and they’ve got some very talented guys who’ve been helping me to get ready.

“It helps that there’s few people getting ready for the Cage Warriors New Year’s Eve show as well, everyone is looking sharp,” he said.

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At 34, Seery more often than not boasts an age advantage over his opponents. Despite the vast experience the Irishman has in combat sports, he explained why he doesn’t see it as advantage when he gets into the cage with younger opponents, citing the focus on strength training as a worrying prospect at first glance.

“No I’ve never seen my age as an advantage, the opposite actually,” he laughed. “I remember when I was squaring off with Silander at the weigh in, I just couldn’t believe the physical shape of him.

“I’ve been small for every weight division I’ve fought in and now I’m a small flyweight too. I always remember what Andy Ryan says about it though, ‘it’s not a body building contest, it’s a fight’, and he’s right.

“All I know is I can get in and do 10 rounds of sparring and feel fine after it. There’s some sacrifices made for guys with muscular physiques, they might be more explosive, but I know I can go at full tilt for three or five rounds where they tire quicker from carrying the muscle around”

Although the much publicised popularity of testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) within MMA has been a hot topic of controversy over the last couple of years, Seery revealed that he has no interest in looking for a medical exemption. Despite fighters in their 20’s looking to for permission to use the treatments, for the Ireland’s flyweight king it’s just over complicating a simple game.

“Honestly, I couldn’t tell you who is on it or who isn’t,” he admitted. “It’s not something I’m concerned with at all.

“For me, fighting has always been about game plans and gas tanks – let’s get into the cage and see who’s better. TRT and stuff like that doesn’t even come into it.

“All I know is I’m shocked when I see lads competing on big stages like Cage Warriors or the UFC and even though they’ve had 10 or 12 weeks to prepare, they’re gassed after the first round.”

The UFC is scheduled to return to the nation’s capital next year and one of the priority names on most peoples’ wish list of competitors for the night is Seery’s. Regardless of the attention, the long-serving scrapper isn’t getting carried away with speculation.

“A lot of people are bringing it up, there’s a lot of talk, but I can tell you that it hasn’t crossed my mind once. As far as putting on a good performance to better my chances – I always demand the best out of myself and this fight will be no different.

“I don’t think I’m the right age to even be on their radar. There’s so many young guys that have a much better chance of being there than me and that’s just the way it is, it doesn’t bother me. I fight for myself, and I fight to win,” he said.

While athletes in general are known for setting themselves goals as motivational tools, Seery has a different approach and looking to 2014 not much will change from his previous years in the game.

“I don’t set myself goals at all,” said the world champion. “I just train, go to work and look after my kids and that’s all that’s certain about 2014. I don’t worry about what’s ahead of me, I just fight every fight like it’s my last.”

With the retirement of legendary fighter Owen Roddy shocking the majority of the Irish MMA community last month, Seery dismissed the thought of hanging up his gloves if the result didn’t go his way in Newcastle.

“No, it’s not time for me to retire now,” he said. “I gauge how good I am on how I do in training. I’m able to go in there and hold my own, but as soon as they start killing me in there, that’s when I’ll know it’s time.”

As far as Saturday’s showdown is concerned, the champion is confident he will get the finish.

“I think he’s going to come out and look to stand with me but as soon as he gets cracked he’s going to try to take me down. People might have seen this guy on the wrong side of some results in the UFC, but that certainly doesn’t make him a bad fighter.

“He has a very dangerous submission game, but if I can stay out of the way of that I’ll knock him out. That’s the way I always want to finish and he’ll go down if it stays standing,” he finished.

By Peter Carroll – @PetesyCarroll

Photos: Dolly Clew/Cage Warriors

Owner/Editor of SevereMMA.com. Writer, Podcaster, Producer of 'Notorious: Conor McGregor' film, 'Conor McGregor: Notorious' TV series, 'Ten Thousand Hours', 'The Fighting Irish' and more documentary films.