Neil Magny has envisioned himself enjoying a long career filled with a lot of success under the UFC banner. The 26-year-old New York native has absolute confidence in the skills he possesses and believes one day down the line that he’ll be a major player in the welterweight division. While he’s worked hard to keep his focus and use that potential of a bright future to fuel him in the present, he is also very much aware of the situation he currently faces.
The rangy Elevation Fight Team member has come up short in back-to-back outings inside the Octagon and this has put him in a position where his broad shoulders are placed directly up against the wall. Where a victory in his next bout will be a necessity in order to keep his place on the UFC roster, the scrappy Colorado transplant is no stranger to adversity.
After his bid to become the 16th winner of The Ultimate Fighter ended in the tournament semi-finals, Magny figured he would get a shot on the show’s finale to make a better impression on both the UFC brass and fan base. Nevertheless, after the season was largely panned by critics, neither Magny nor any of his housemates on the show were scheduled on the card.
It was the first time in the show’s storied history the UFC failed to fill the lineup at the finale with fighters coming off the most recent season of the show. While this threw Magny and his housemates a curveball of sorts, the UFC’s message of disappointment was one which resonated loud and clear.
This put Magny in a situation where he could have either jump back into the regional scene for a few more bouts or prove to the UFC he was ready for the biggest show in the sport. He knew he could prove his worth if the UFC would give him another chance and that opportunity came when he was tapped to face Jon Manley at UFC 157 in February of 2013.
While the victory over Manley was a big one, losses in his next two outings took the wind out of his proverbial sails. He would drop back-to-back outings against Sergio Moraes and Seth Baczynski, putting him on the verge of losing his roster spot with the UFC.
“I’m in a tough position where I’m coming off back-to-back losses in the UFC and my job may depend on how this fight goes,” Magny said. “It does put things in a different perspective, but I’m also young enough where if something like that does happen, I can bounce back and recover from it. But my focus in this fight is doing what I can do and giving them a reason to keep me around. I want to show them why they signed me in the first place.
“The biggest thing I took away from that fight (with Baczynski) is the importance of winning every position. There were times during the fight I had my back to the cage, but since I was throwing strikes, I thought I was winning that position. I need to win every position and refuse to settle in any position where I think I’m winning or doing enough to get by.”
That said, he can turn things around in a big way if he can defeat promotional newcomer Gasan Umalatov on the UFC Fight Pass portion of UFC 169 in Newark. The Russian welterweight is the latest addition to the UFC roster from the Dagestan-based Fight Nights Team, but Magny is mentally prepared to accomplish the tall task at hand.
“I think he’s going to want to take the fight to the ground because I don’t think he’s going to want to stand there and trade shots with me,” Magny said. “I expect him to try to push the fight to the ground as much as he can. But I’m ready for everything. One of the things my coaches have really had me working on for this fight is staying focused and being mentally prepared for everything that can happen in there. I don’t care where the fight goes because I’m just going in there to win.
“This is going to be a good fight. It’s my first time competing on the east coast and that is where I grew up. I’ll have a lot of family and friends there and I’m going to be very comfortable in this fight. It’s going to be exciting with lots of action.”
With all the pressure to perform in his fight on Saturday night, it becomes easy to forget that Magny is still the opening stags of his young career. After turning pro in 2010, Magny racked up eight fights in just under two years, with his hand being raised on seven occasions throughout this run. While his early success and the amount of effort it took to claim victory in those fights is a far cry from the highly competitive environment of the UFC, Magny believes his progression is coming along nicely.
Over this stretch he’s put a ton of focus into developing the fight which goes on between his shoulders. He knows he possesses the skills necessary to make a long run under the UFC banner, but he needed to get his mental game firing on all cylinders in order to bring the pieces of his game together.
Now, with that element intact, he’s prepared to show the UFC they made the right move bringing him on back in 2011, and he’ll have that specific opportunity this weekend in New Jersey.
“The aspect I feel I’ve improved the most would be my mental game,” Magny said in conclusion. “I’ve been training MMA since I was 16 years old and I have eight years of training under my belt. But the biggest part for me is mental. I reached a point where I was able to go in the gym and hang with my teammates, then go into a fight and not even break a sweat against my opponents.
“Now, it’s reached a point where it’s more mental than anything else. A lot of guys are coming in with specific game plans against you and not just stepping in there to slug it out. They examine your weaknesses and where they feel they can beat you. I’ve put a lot of work to improve the mental aspect of my game.”
Watch the first three UFC 169 prelims on UFC Fight Pass this Saturday, February 1. Start your free trial today