LAS VEGAS – Geoff Neal is looking better than ever as a welterweight contender in 2022, a fantastic feat considering he almost died in 2020.
After a life-threatening infection nearly ended him, Neal (15-4 MMA, 7-2 UFC) not only back to where he had been. He became better than ever, something he showed at UFC on ESPN 40 when he defeated Vicente Luque (21-9-1 MMA, 14-5 UFC) via third-round knockout.
“I really feel like yeah it was probably mentally (my best performance),” Neal told MMA Junkie and other reporters. “I feel like everything finally clicked this fight. Everything was just there. It was kind of getting there before the whole sepsis thing and then it kind of fell off a little bit. Now I’m back on track to where I was.”
A big part of the mental reset was facing up with the worry that’s occupied the back of his mind. Since his near 2020 meet-up with the grim reaper, Neal has always been concerned his cardio would fail – and with it, his heart. The thoughts started to creep into his head mid-fight, but coach Sayif Saud was there to shoe them away.
“With sepsis came congestive heart failure,” Neal said. “My kidneys shut down so there has been this fear of gassing out, this fear of dying from being too tired, that I’m slowly trying to get over. It kind of hit in the second round, just because it happens. My coach pulled me out of it and it took me over to the third round.”
Neal, 31, has now won back-to-back fights over Santiago Ponzinibbio and Luque. Other notable UFC victories include Belal Muhammad, Niko Price and Mike Perry.