Neil Berry takes on Anton Tokarchuk for the Rumble in the Cage light-heavyweight championship. It goes down at RITC 62 on October 19th in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada. Berry vs Tokarchuk is the main event of the evening and goes at Lethbridge Exhibition Park South Pavilion. Canadian Martial Arts Centre in Lethbridge houses a number of top-level martial artists on a daily basis. Berry is sharpening his tools there ahead of his fight with the Dynamic MMA product out of Calgary. Neil Berry has embarked on quite a journey in martial arts that has lead him to this moment.
Neil Berry trains at a gym that features UFC fighter Jordan Mein but he also trains with recent Unified MMA title challengers like Jared Kilkenny and Sheldon Doll. When I asked about the training vibes with multiple teammates working towards big title fights, Berry said “It creates a pretty amazing atmosphere at the gym right now. Tim Tamaki’s fighting for a title the same night I am. It’s great to have those people around you.”
The dynamic between teammates goes much deeper than just being sparring partners and a bit of fun banter between workouts. There’s a true kinship among those at CMC. Berry said, “We’re a family. It’s always been a great community at CMC. I work there full time too. Having a great place to go to every day is pretty amazing.”
Berry also getting to teach at the gym full time has resulted in his game improving in measurable ways. He said, “You start to learn things about the technique and about yourself with doing the technique that you wouldn’t realize otherwise. I think more people should try to teach a little bit.”
Hiatus in the Coal Mine
Neil Berry’s journey as a martial artist has taken him down some interesting paths. There have been pivotal moments of self-discovery where he was trying different things to renew his vigor for MMA. Berry said, “I kind of walked away from fighting because I felt like it wasn’t going anywhere. It was taking a pretty big toll on me mentally at the time. I was on a four-fight losing streak and it took a lot out of me; walked away from fighting. I was teaching at the time but ended up stopping for a little while and went to work at a coal mine for about four years. I kind of took time away from training.”
He continued, “When I came back, I focused on jiu-jitsu. Testing for my belts and whatnot. I fell in love with training again; ended up getting to my black belt right around the time I left the coal mine. I came back to teaching and training. I’ve had the itch for a while to get back to actually fighting in the cage again. I was in a good place mentally, training-wise, body-wise. It’s been a good experience so far coming back. Just trying to have fun basically.”
His last victory was a situation where everything went into slow motion. A lot of mental games came up heading in but Berry got a picture-perfect result in the end. I covered that fight cage-side and saw Berry score his first MMA win in a decade by finishing Jordan Murray via 0:32 first-round TKO.
Berry said, “Not so much nerves about getting beat up or anything like that. Just nerves about performing. Win or lose I wanted to go in there and be proud of my fight. That kind of gets into your head. You’ve been away for so long. What if you go in there and freeze? I’ve done that in fights before when I was younger where you go in and just don’t do anything. Luckily I came out and was actually able to do things I do in the gym on a regular basis.”
The Road to RITC 62
The road to this championship fight was greatly informed by a title bout the last time out. Neil Berry took on two-division Unified MMA champion/ DWCS fighter Teddy Ash on a few days notice. Berry’s nervousness was at an all-time high as he readied to take on a certified killer without any kind of lengthy camp behind him.
He said, “With the Teddy Ash fight, my nerves and anxiety was really bad. I’ve never had it like that before. Taking such a big fight on short notice with such a top-level performer. It was interesting about ten minutes before the fight it completely disappeared. I felt super calm and at peace when I actually went out there and fought. Leading up to this fight now, my anxiety isn’t nearly the same.”
Berry continued, “There are different mental games going on. Dealing with having a longer fight camp, you deal with a lot more injuries and stuff like that. Highs and lows of good and bad days. This fight seems to be going a lot more smoothly with where my head’s at.”
Rumble in the Cage 62
The confluence of mental focus and physical preparedness very much seems to be present ahead of this fight. Berry has an informed read on Anton Tokarchuk and is prepping accordingly. Berry said, “From what I understand, he’s a super well-rounded fighter. He’s got good standup. He understands the ground game really well. I did get to corner against him when Josh Heinz one of my teammates fought him.”
He continued, “So I got to be right there and kind of see that he’s tough, durable. He’s got reach. He’s got reach even on me which is going to be interesting to deal with. So I’m definitely going to have to fight a smart game and keep my head with me. Not get over-anxious at times in the fight. It’s going to be an interesting challenge fighting Anton”
Neil Berry is not someone who gets paid by the hour. Make sure you have all your drinks and snacks situated near you prior to when Berry vs Tokarchuk gets going. Both men have a one hundred percent finishing rate so it’s difficult to see how this one could be anything short of a barnburner. Berry said, “I’ve only been to the second round a few times. Only been to a decision once as an amateur.”
Berry vs Tokarchuk is the top of the marquee prize fight for Saturday, October 19th in Lethbridge. The RITC light-heavyweight title is up for grabs at Rumble in the Cage 62. Fans who can’t be there live and in-person can peep the fights via FITE TV at 9:00 PM ET.