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Only a rescheduled bout with Ian McCall stopped Neil Seery from retiring

The Irish flyweight postponed his plans to call it a day for a fight he’s been keen on for a long time.

IT DIDN’T TAKE long for Neil Seery to decide to put his retirement plans on hold, but only because the terms were right.

Prior to his scheduled bout against Ian McCall in Belfast on 19 November, Seery had announced that the fight would be his last. McCall will still be the final man to share the octagon with the veteran Dubliner, but the situation changed the evening before the weigh-in.

Ian McCall and Neil Seery Ian McCall and Neil Seery at the UFC Fight Night 99 media day in Belfast in November. Source: INPHO/Presseye/Brian Little

With just over 24 hours to go until the fight, Seery learned as he tipped the scales under the 126lbs limit that McCall had taken ill. The bout was subsequently removed from the UFC Fight 99 card and Seery’s retirement plans were up in the air.

“As far as I know Ian had been ill the night before so I was surprised that nobody came and told me then because I was still cutting weight,” Seery recalls.

Only a few days had passed when the UFC were in touch about rescheduling the fight for another date. Seery was eager to begin 2017 as a retired fighter, but the McCall fight is one he’s been keen on for quite a while.

McCall has a track record of late cancellations too, one of which worked out well for Seery in the past. The Team Ryano fighter was signed by the UFC in 2014 as a late replacement to take on Brad Pickett.

Only a meeting with a dynamic fighter like McCall would have prevented Seery from going through with his retirement, and that remains the case. The pair have been booked for a flyweight bout at UFC 208 in Brooklyn on Saturday, 11 February.

“I didn’t know what was going on after he went off sick the last time, or whatever happened to him. I still don’t know what went on with McCall’s situation, but I was disappointed. I genuinely wanted to be finished this year. I was hoping it would be all done and dusted, but these things happen.

Neil Seery in action Jon Delos Reyes Seery's last win came against Jon Delos Reyes in Dublin in October 2015. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

“The only reason that I didn’t [retire] after that is because I wanted to fight Ian McCall. That’s basically it. I’ve been watching the flyweight division unfold and it’s a different ball-game now. There are some serious contenders coming through at the minute.

“It’s exciting to watch but I know, hand on heart, that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with them going on. That’s one of the reasons why I’m jumping out. The athletes are getting a lot better. A lot of people have stepped their game up.”

It wasn’t the first time in recent memory that Seery was the victim of an opponent’s withdrawal on the eve of a fight. In December 2013, his inaugural Cage Warriors flyweight title defence fell through after Ulysses Gomez suffered complications while cutting weight.

Seery: “When you’re told your fight’s not going ahead, you have a different mindset because you’ve been cutting weight and all you want to do is rehydrate and eat and get back to feeling normal. It’s only the next day when you’re at the show that it sinks in that you should be in there. That’s the hardest part. That’s when the situation really kicks in.

“The only time I saw Ian McCall afterwards was when he was checking out of the hotel. I went over and wished him all the best. I don’t have any bad feelings towards him. I’d rather fight a healthy Ian McCall than a sick Ian McCall. You don’t want excuses whether you win, lose or draw.”

The main cause of disappointment for Seery when his bout against McCall fell through in Belfast was that many fans, friends and members of his family had made the journey north to witness his farewell fight. Only a few are likely to make it to New York instead, and although he was completely blameless in the situation, it left the 37-year-old feeling guilty.

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Neil Seery Seery: "I was surprised that nobody came and told me then because I was still cutting weight." Source: Presseye/Brian Little/INPHO

“We’ll try and put something together to get a few of them over,” he says. “I was really sick for them, all my family, friends, fans who spent money to go up to Belfast for the weekend, paying for hotels, travel, tickets, I was ready for the fight and then it fell through. I felt really bad for them being out of pocket. I felt pretty shit over that.”

With the event taking place just seven weeks after Christmas, some of the bigger weight-cutters on the UFC 208 card will be monitoring their diet closely. Seery isn’t one of them, however, so he’ll enjoy the festive period as normal before reducing his calorie intake in January.

“I’m going to enjoy it the way I always do,” he insists. “I’ve never been a big flyweight. I went out running the other day, did six miles, came back and stood on the scales and I was 62kg [136.5lbs]. That’s what I weighed the week I got to Belfast, so I don’t have to cut a lot of weight. I’m not one for putting on a lot of weight. It takes a long time for it to come on, although it takes a lot longer for it to come off. I have plenty of time.”

Seery has only fought on US soil once before and he’ll be hoping for a different outcome on this occasion. At UFC 189 in Las Vegas in July 2015, the long flight and Las Vegas heat took its toll on Seery in the build-up to his unanimous-decision loss to Louis Smolka. He doesn’t expect Brooklyn to throw up any such issues.

“I don’t think that stuff is going to affect me whatsoever this time. I’m just really looking forward to competing against Ian McCall. Vegas was a different thing altogether, with travel and the heat and stuff like that. I don’t think there will be the same issues in New York.”

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Paul Dollery

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