Few fighters put their mark on 2014 the way Neil Magny did.
Sure, there were others who hit the self-promotion button at a faster rate, and some who capitalized on high-profile opportunities, but none who worked at the prolific pace of The Ultimate Fighter Season 16 alum. The Colorado-based fighter notched five victories over the course of 2014 and tied the organization’s record for the most wins in a single calendar year.
That was an impressive feat by all measurable standards, but it’s how Magny used the streak that is perhaps the most extraordinary element of his accomplishment. Rather than use his growing momentum to bark out for title shots or higher profile tilts, the New York native used each of the five fights to further his ever-improving skill set.
Magny saw his streak as an education of sorts, and one he’s looking to keep rolling as his next year gets underway at UFC Fight Night: Henderson vs. Thatch this Saturday.
“It was great to go five fights in a row where I was able to get the win and take very few injuries,” Magny said. “That was huge for me. Some guys win two or three fights and start asking for title shots when they should be working on their skills and constantly evolving as a fighter. They try to jump to the top when they should be improving, and I’m okay with taking my time. I’m okay with taking things fight by fight, getting better every time out and working my way to the top that way.
“I would much rather make a mistake where I’m at now than later on when I’m in a top 10 or top 15 position, or when I am getting the opportunity to fight for a title. If I make a mistake where I’m currently at I can learn from it and move on, rather than making a mistake when I’m in a much bigger position and have it really hurt me. I’m really focused on improving with every step I take.”
And while his success in 2014 was certainly recognized by both his peers and the promotion he competes for, Magny has no plans of allowing his newfound visibility to alter who he is outside of the Octagon. The 27-year-old welterweight believes in the age-old adage that hard work truly pays off and plans to keep his energy invested into the process of progress necessary to become a better mixed martial artist.
“I just try to stay as humble as possible,” Magny said. “I’ve heard a lot over the years about guys who get a little bit of success in MMA and they start changing things. They start changing who they are, how they act and how they treat people. They start making changes like that and I’m not that way. I’m a humble person who believes in hard work and dedication. I try to keep those things in mind every single day.”
The first challenge for the surging prospect will come against Kiichi Kunimoto on Saturday night in his adopted backyard of Broomfield, Colorado. Magny has called the Denver area home for the past three years and has really come to embrace everything about the Rocky Mountain metropolis. This especially rings true when Denver’s notorious mile high elevation comes into play, as Magny has trained in the city’s thin air on a regular basis since relocating from the east coast.
He’s excited to be facing the Japanese veteran on his home turf and believes the elevation -along with the pace he intends to set - will be difficult challenges for Kunimoto to overcome on Saturday night.
“I’m really excited for this fight because it’s the first time I’m getting to fight at home,” Magny said. “I am going to get to feel what it’s like to have people cheering for me rather than competing in somewhere like Brazil, where I’m getting booed. I’m very excited to fight in the city I call home now.
“Another great thing about this fight is [Kunimoto] has to travel and come into elevation, where I’ve been training the past three years. I think that’s going to work to my advantage in this fight. I’m going to work my game plan and push the pace even more and come out on top.”
While his current five-fight winning streak has allowed him to make steady progress up the ranks of the 170-pound division, Magny seems to be happier with how he’s reached his current position rather than simply being on an impressive run. The aforementioned hard work he’s invested is showing through on fight night, and his overall game is maturing at a rapid rate.
And where bigger fights may be waiting for him further out on the horizon, Magny is in no rush to get anywhere before he believes it’s time. That said, if things keep progressing the way they have in the past 12 months, Magny could be turning in his prospect label for something more prominent in the coming year.
“I feel like I’m really starting to put things together as far as my wrestling, grappling and striking are concerned,” Magny said. “I’ve been able to switch off between the three and make it work. In my last fight (against William Macario) I was able to use strikes to get in on him, wrestling to get him down and strikes to finish him off. I feel really good because my skills are evolving one by one and I’m able to put them together to make the total package.
“Last year was an amazing year, but now it’s a totally different year and a new opponent standing in front of me,” he added. “I’m going to stick to my game plan, keep working hard and keep moving forward.”