Geoff Neal’s frustration is starting to boil over as he tries to secure a noteworthy matchup in the UFC welterweight division.
Neal (13-2 MMA, 5-0 UFC) has been searching far and wide for someone who will fight him after he scored a 90-second knockout of Mike Perry in his most recent bout at UFC 245 in December. The timeline for most fighters got tossed into disarray by the coronavirus pandemic, but the promotion has been back in full swing with eight shows in the past two months and many more scheduled.
In recent months, Neal has expressed interest in a litany of names. From ex-champions such as Robbie Lawler and Tyron Woodley to a former title challenger like Stephen Thompson, and even some names lower down the rankings like Santiago Ponzinibbio and Michael Chiesa.
The latter, Chiesa (17-4 MMA, 10-4 UFC), is the one person Neal has called out most, but he’s gotten little to nothing in return, which he finds particularly bothersome.
“I really just want to fight Chiesa because he’s been ignoring me,” Neal told MMA Junkie. “Like, at first it was just I want to fight him just to fight him, but now I want to fight him because I feel like he’s being a (expletive). I want that Chiesa fight just off personal (expletive) because he’s acting like I’m invisible to him. I’ve been calling him out for (expletive) months. So, I want that fight. (Expletive) him.”
Neal, who moved into the No. 10 spot at 170 pounds in the UFC’s latest rankings update, thinks Chiesa would be a good challenge for him. Most of the other names he’s called out are primarily strikers, but Chiesa is someone who would very much prefer to grapple when possible.
A win over Chiesa, especially in a fight where he had to show some grappling defense, would answer some more unknowns about Neal’s game. He said he would like those answers, too, but he also now has a score to settle as well.
“I feel disrespected which makes it kind personal because I know he sees my posts and he made some comment that he doesn’t want to fight me because I said something about him not wanting any smoke, which is kind of a weak-ass excuse not to fight me,” Neal said. “I’m No. 10 now. I was No. 11 before, like we’re not that far off in the rankings. It’s not like I’m some unranked dude trying to call you out.
“The fight makes perfect sense. He wants to chase after Colby Covington – you only have three fights in the welterweight division and you’ve fought two dudes that are (expletive) ’55ers. You can’t really say that you were above me. He has this air of entitlement and I (expletive) hate that (expletive).”
Neal hopes his argument will motivate the UFC and Chiesa to set up the fight, but patience is wearing thin. His coach and manager Sayif Saud of Fortis MMA told MMA Junkie in May that “people do not want to fight” Neal, and nearly two months later it doesn’t seem much has changed.
He sees a potential opportunity in a former champ like Woodley (19-5-1 MMA, 9-4-1 UFC), who recently said he’s in no position to pick and choose fights after back-to-back losses.
“Woodley said something that’s he’s looking for a fight,” Neal said. “I’m down. Hopefully he’ll accept that.”
The 29-year-old is going on seven months since he last competed, and he said he can only wait so long until he has to change his standards for what defines a logical opponent next.
“Of course I want to move up in the rankings but it’s getting to that point where I’m just going to take whatever opportunity that’s going to come my way,” Neal said. “I want Chiesa, Ponzinibbio, I wanted ‘Wonderboy’ but I doubt he’ll take that fight; Lawler, Woodley. But it’s getting to that point where I might have to fight backwards.”