Having originally supposed to have faced Tyree Fortune last December, light-heavyweight Grant Neal finally got the bout this past May, and showed why the extra time he had to prepare for the fight paid off with a first round submission win.
For Neal not only was the win a long time coming, but it helped him move up the ranks, which is exactly what he has been looking to do when facing competition like Fortune.
“I felt like I had a really solid performance,” Neal told MMAWeekly.com. “I got to showcase a lot of the stuff I’ve been working on in my BJJ game.
“It was an awesome opportunity to go out there and finish a tough opponent in the first round. I never take that lightly. It was definitely a great opportunity to see where I was at, and to take out another guy who was in the Top 10 felt pretty good.”
Neal feels like adding more BJJ to his game has forwarded his goal of becoming so diverse that opponents can’t just focus on one aspect of his game because he’ll bring too many things to each fight he has.
“The biggest thing for me is I like to have an extreme repertoire of tools that I can pull from,” said Neal. “I want to be a Swiss Army Knife. There’s a lot of things you can constantly be working on in this fight game, and one of them happens to be my BJJ game.
“It’s been a journey of sorts. I have a really strong wrestling background, and I like to implement that, but be more aggressive on the ground and be into positions where I’m threatening from all differ possessions is something that we’ve really been training on in 2021. I’m really excited about it.”
On September 18 in San Jose, California, Neal (6-0) will look to keep his undefeated streak going when he takes on Alex Polizzi (8-1) in a 205-pound preliminary bout at Bellator 266.
“I think this is another awesome match-up for me personally, because (Polizzi) has been in there with some good competition as well, and he’s a tough guy,” Neal said. “I saw one of his fights and he looked like he could walk through anything, walk through the fire, so I know he’s going to be tough.
“I know he’s going to be a good dance partner. I’m excited to showcase some fireworks; whether it’s on the ground or on the feet; I’m excited anywhere this fight takes me and feel strong anywhere the fight goes.”
Having picked up all but one of his wins in Bellator, Neal is facing increasing expectations, but that’s fine with him, as he’s always putting himself up to a higher standard as he moves up the light-heavyweight ranks.
“It doesn’t matter if I fight the best guy in the world or the worst guy in the world, that night he is the best guy in the world (to me), and in order for me to continue my journey and my path I have to take out the person in front of me that’s in my path,” said Neal.
“I already put that pressure on myself, so there’s nothing really anything externally that’s added to my game. I enjoy it. I enjoy feeling that way. I enjoy feeling that there’s something to gain. Pressure makes diamonds and I love to have that, and so I manufacture that every time I go into a fight.”