Josh Neer returns to the Bellator arena to face fellow Iowan Paul Bradley in the main event of Bellator 129. “The Dentist” has fought multiple times for the UFC, Shark Fights, Victory Fighting Championships and now he’s on the journey to the top of Bellator’s welterweight division.
You competed in wrestling, football, and baseball in high school. Was it hard to just pick one sport entering into your collegiate career?
Neer: Wrestling and baseball were my two favorites sports, but I took 3-4 years off of baseball and that kind of set me back. By the time I graduated, wrestling was my best sport, so I took that avenue.
You started your career in Toad Hollar Fight Clubs. Tell us what it was like to compete in the amateur circuit.
Neer: I started competing in Toad Hollar Fight club right after I graduated from high school. I had watched a little bit of MMA and always liked it. Basically what happened is one of my friends said hey, now they have these local fights where anyone can go and sign up. So I went and checked it out and was like, I can do this. I went in there the next week and fought and pretty much kept doing it. It was a weekly thing and you could just go there, weigh in, and then they just paired you up with someone around your weight.
Did you then start to fight every week?
Neer: Pretty much. I would say the majority of my fights were with someone heavier than me just because I started running out of people that would fight me.
You were working in construction at the same time that you were in the amateur circuit, correct?
Neer: Yeah I was working in construction right after I graduated from high school. I went to college for a year but then I was like I don’t really want to go to college, I want to pursue this fighting thing. So I was working construction and fighting at the same time.
What advice would you give to someone with an interest in pursuing a professional MMA career?
Neer: I’d tell them to go to a good gym with good trainers. Back when I first started fighting, people just went in there and fought. They didn’t really train jiu-jitsu, boxing, muay thai, werestling and everything else. Now you have to really go in there and get good coaching and be ready to do everything. The biggest thing would be to go and get some good coaches, have good knowledge from people who are going to be able to teach you.
You have taken the overwhelming majority of your fights by submission and KO. What do you look for in a fight to finish so effectively?
Neer: I think that’s one thing different than me, I’m just more well-rounded than a lot of people and I can finish the fight in every area. I feel like I don’t have one strength, I feel like I have multiple areas that I’m pretty solid at and can finish.
What do you think will make the difference in your fight against Paul Bradley. He has a strong wrestling background as well.
Neer: I feel like I have more experience than him and I feel like I’m a better technical fighter. When he was off wrestling at the University of Iowa, I was 60 miles down the road at Miletich learning how to fight. So I have 5 more years of experience, knowledge, and everything from fighting than what he has. I just feel like technically I’m a better fighter than he is.
You’ve fought for multiple promotions like VFC, Shark Fights, UFC etc. How long do you see yourself in Bellator? What are your goals for making the move to a new organization?
Neer: I’m signed with Bellator for 4 fights so I should be there for a while. My goal is to win a world title. I think anyone that’s here in the sport is here to win a world title. My #1 goal right now is to win this fight and move on up.
With a win over Bradley, where do you see yourself next in Bellator? Who would you like to fight next?
Neer: There’s lots of top good guys. Douglas Lima, Paul Daley, Rick Hawn, those are the top 3 guys that I know. One of those guys.
You’ve said that Pat Miletich and Dan Gable are some of your most inspirational iconss. What about them inspires you?
Neer: When I grew up, every kid in wrestling looks up to Dan Gable. As an Iowan, he’s the type of person that you’re gonna look up to as a role model. Pat Miletich was really inspirational in my life because he’s so good at every area of MMA. I feel like he’s one of the people that changed the game where before it used to be you’re a good wrestler, you’re good at karate, you’re good at boxing, where he’s the one that took all of those disciplines and combined them into one. He’s the one that made MMA into what it is today where you have to be a well-rounded fighter and be good at everything to be able to compete at the top level.
It’s going to be interesting to see the main event fight between two athletes competing in their home state. Does that pressure help or hurt your performance?
Neer: I would say that it helps me perform better because its embarassing when you get beat up in front of people that you know. To me, it just motivates me to fight that much harder. I’m gonna go in there and try to put on my best performance when I have people close to me at the fight.
Catch Bradley vs. Neer in Bellator 129 on Friday at 9/8C on Spike TV.