"I realized that I have to go in there and defend the takedown and try to stay up and make it a more exciting fight." - Josh Neer
Josh Neer doesn’t ask for much. He doesn’t have a ten deep entourage to cater to his every whim, doesn’t request that the brown M&M’s to be removed from a candy bowl. All he wants is that when you sign to fight him, you fight him.
It should be a simple request, but Neer has seen his aggressive style get nullified more than once in the past, and it even cost him his UFC job in 2009 when he lost back-to-back bouts against Kurt Pellegrino and Gleison Tibau. It could have been the sign for him to make a drastic stylistic overhaul, but that’s not his style. Yet while the attitude remains unchanged, he did add a few wrinkles to his game over the last couple years to make life a little easier on himself.
“I didn’t get the best matchups that I wanted to get,” said Neer of his bouts against Pellegrino and Tibau, both of which he lost via unanimous decision. “I think that I do better against the actual fighters. I think there are a lot of guys that are just athletes that are fighting, as opposed to actual fighters. I fought two good athletes and I didn’t go in there with the right gameplan. I went out there thinking that they’re gonna come out and try to fight me and beat me, and really, they went in there just with the gameplan to try to win the fight. Guys say that they’re gonna stand up and trade and get Fight of the Night and everything else, but most of the time they’re really not gonna fight that way, especially those types of fighters like the athletes. I realized that I have to go in there and defend the takedown and try to stay up and make it a more exciting fight.”
Iowa’s Neer may be just 28 years old, but he’s got an old soul when it comes to fighting. When you’re estimated to have had close to 100 amateur fights, countless gym wars, and 44 “official” pro bouts, that’s probably as old school as you’re going to get, and as far as he’s concerned, when you have the gloves on, you’re not supposed to engage in a wrestling match.
“In the old days, it was mainly just fighters that were in the UFC, and now, I think there are more athletes in there and it’s more of an athlete thing than an actual fighter thing,” he said. “But there are still a lot of veterans around, and a lot of them are at the top right now. Anderson Silva, Lyoto Machida, Shogun (Rua), Wanderlei (Silva). Those guys are still around.”
Neer may not have the accolades of the above group just yet, but he is cut from their cloth, and he’s got the respect of his peers. What earned him even more is his route back to the UFC following his release in 2009. Unlike many cut fighters who will engage in one or two easy bouts and then light up matchmaker Joe Silva’s cell phone asking for a return, Neer did what he always did – fight. If the call came, great. If it didn’t, he still had to make a living.
“I like to fight wherever,” said Neer, a pro for nearly a decade. “The UFC chose to cut me so I had to fight elsewhere.”
As for those “other” guys that try to shortcut their way back?
“Guys that do that kind of annoy me,” he said. “I think those guys are just looking to get noticed and get attention. I don’t really understand it, but I like to fight, and I tried to fight good competition when I was outside the UFC, just trying to earn my way back, as opposed to just winning a couple of easy fights and then try to get back in. I earned my way back in.”
That he did. From 2010 to his callback to the organization for last October’s bout against Keith Wisniewski, Neer fought seven times, losing only to Eddie Alvarez. All of his victories came by way of knockout or submission, making his return an unsurprising one. It was still nice though.
“It was good to get the call back and get back in there and get to fight some of the best guys.”
Neer also got a willing dance partner for his first fight back, as fellow veteran Keith Wisniewski went toe-to-toe with “The Dentist” for 10 minutes and took a series of hellacious shots until the Octagonside physician called a halt to the bout at the conclusion of the second round.
“I knew he was a tough guy because we fought on a couple of the same cards, and I knew it was gonna be a tough fight,” said Neer of Wisniewski. “He’s experienced, he’s well-rounded, and he’s been around forever, so it was a tough fight, but yeah, some of the shots I hit him with, I thought he was done, but then he just kept coming. He was like the Terminator.”
It was precisely the fight that Neer craves, and he’s likely to get a similar scrap when he takes on Duane “Bang” Ludwig this Friday night in Nashville. Ludwig is another vet who was fighting back before fighting was cool, and when he steps into the Octagon, all the kind words and handshakes go out the door. That’s Neer’s kind of fighter.
“He’s a real technical fighter, and he’s the type of fighter that I like to fight,” said Neer of Ludwig. “He’s gonna try to finish and not just win by points. I think he’s good.”
But what of Josh Neer’s future in the game? He’s won big fights, earned Fight of the Night bonuses, and beaten top-level opposition, but he has never put together the kind of streak that would land him in the title picture. Is reaching the top of the welterweight division still the goal?
“I think everybody that fights should want to be a world champion,” said Neer. “That’s definitely one of my goals, but I think more of a realistic thing is to be someone like Chris Lytle that has exciting fights every time I fight, and go in there and be remembered that way.”
Well, “Lights Out” wouldn’t be a bad role model, as you won’t find anyone with a cross word to say about the recently retired Indiana native. Neer could live with having that type of legacy.
“That definitely is a big deal for me,” he said. “You look at Wanderlei Silva and he’s never been the champion of the UFC, but he has everyone’s respect. The same thing with Chris Lytle.”
And Josh Neer.