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Neil Berry

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Neil Berry on Graham Park title bid at Unified MMA 40

Neil Berry takes on Graham Park in the Unified MMA 40 main event. This championship affair goes down on August 14th in Edmonton, Alberta.

This clash for 205-pound gold transpires on UFC Fight Pass. I recently spoke with the title contender ahead of this promotional debut on Fight Pass and excerpts from our chat can be found below.

Neil Berry

How teaching martial arts techniques refine his own skills as a competitor

“It’s huge, actually. I think teaching is a super important thing that a lot of fighters and martial arts should be doing. Because it really reinforces and gives you a deeper understanding of your own technique. Now you got to figure out how to pass it on to different people with different attributes and everything. You really do gain a deeper understanding of the techniques. What you’re trying to do as a fighter and martial artist and whatnot.”

“So, I think everybody should be teaching. Once they put some time in and that. Once they’ve got a few years in at least. Everybody should be getting into a little bit of teaching. That’s my opinion anyway (laughs).”

The tight-knit family dynamic at CMC and training pivots amid a global pandemic

“The training is starting to get back to normal now. The gyms are opened up full-time. There was a while there where there wasn’t a lot going on. So I was doing my own workouts at home. Meeting up with people and stuff like that. But the last year and a half has been super choppy and very intermittent. With everything going on but now that the gyms are open, our team is back together.”

Neil Berry continued, “The community is strong at CMC again and the energy at the gym is awesome again, kind of pre-pandemic. So it feels a little more normal again being back at the gym. Everybody there and whatnot. So training is good and solid again. Our classes are back to normal and it feels like nothing happened almost (laughs). But, nah it’s been good.”

CMC compatriot Maged Hammo also vying for a title belt on this card

“I love it. We have other people too fighting on the same card and even the next day. Having extra guys around that have the same deadline that I do. With Maged having a title fight too. Maged just got the title fight. So he’s wrapping things up again. But having him around and the energy he brings. I get very different training with him than I do with other people. Which is awesome to have that variety. And now I get to also help him, which will help me with training right.”

“Because now I got to stay consistent. Not just to help him but you know it’s gonna help me and it’s gonna be great. It’s always great having buddies but also teammates on the same show. We get to go together and get to cut weight together, eat together, train together. It’s good to have that community. Even though we fight by ourselves, having that support behind you is huge.”

Unified MMA

Back-to-back MMA cards in Alberta feeling like a breath of fresh air (Unified MMA 40 and BTC 11)

“Yes, it’s crazy. I think everybody’s trying to get as many cards in right now as they can while they can. It’s ramping up and there’s gonna be a lot of fight cards I think over the rest of this year. Which is pretty cool to see.”

Capturing the Rumble in the Cage light heavyweight title in Lethbridge during his last outing

“Yeah, that was a pretty special night for me. Rumble in the Cage has been kind of my home fight card since I was 20 years old. So to capture the light heavyweight belt there was pretty special. I was very happy about that and performance-wise, I felt like the stars aligned. Everything went perfect for that fight. Like I took zero damage, I was able to finish the fight how I thought the fight would finish.”

Neil Berry continued, “How I could finish it and everything like that. So you know, it was a perfect night. I felt good in the fight, had a good fight camp going into it. Winning the Rumble belt was huge for me. Now going forward, I want to get this Unified belt. So I have my hometown one and I won one that’s out of town. It’s gonna be a tough fight. And I’m looking forward to the challenge.”

His prior lengthy career hiatus and frustrations from the competitive dormancy of the pandemic

“This last year and a half has been incredibly tough on me. As far as being a fighter goes. I was supposed to fight Graham (Park) on March 14th of 2020. That got canceled on two days notice. So, that was frustrating. Then having like, how many months went by without a glimmer of hope of even having a fight card. Then the gym closing down. So then I wasn’t able to work for however many months. It was an extremely stressful year and a half now or however long it’s been.”

“My mental health definitely suffered over this last year. Everyone that’s close to me could definitely see it. I know they could. I’ve talked about it with a few people. It was a very dark, frustrating year for me. And now that we’re coming out of it I’ve been trying to get my mindset back to a healthy mentality. That’s been a battle too but I think I’m making really good progress on that. Getting this fight confirmed and everything was huge on helping me get my mindset back to where I needed to be.”

Neil Berry continued, “To be a positive person and to be a good influence at the gym. To be a good instructor again and everything like that. But yeah, this last year was definitely a tough challenge and it definitely did take its toll on me. I’m glad we’re kind of getting hopefully to the end of it and can keep moving forward. I can get a few more fights in under my belt while I can. And while I can compete with these top guys.”

Unified MMA 40

Another pugilistic permutation of CMC vs Shaved Bears and the immense respect among the gyms

“I’ve always had respect for everybody that I fight. There’s no reason to not respect the Shaved Bears team and their club. I mean, they’ve been producing incredible fighters lately. That’s not up for debate. They have a super strong team, great fighters, and they’re always respectful. When I fought Teddy (Ash) he was super respectful, everybody on their team was respectful. Every time we’ve crossed paths, there’s never been any issues.”

“And it’s hard not to respect a team like that. Yeah, I mean, they’re an awesome team and I’ve got nothing but respect for them. With this fight coming up, it’s business. It’s nothing personal and we’re both going in there to be the best that we can be. I’m getting older and I’ve got a few fights left. So I wanted to put my name out for these challenges while I can. I’ve only got a few fights left I think. So I’m gonna make the most of them.”

His prior Unified MMA title fight vs Teddy Ash and if this upcoming bout is redemptive at all

“There’s nothing resonating from that fight with Teddy. I took it on short notice when nobody else would. I’m proud of what I did only having one fight back after nine years. I’m happy with that performance. Teddy is an awesome fighter. He knocked my head off and it was awesome. And yeah, there’s nothing resonating from that. There’s no sense of trying to get payback or anything like that. None of that. There’s no negative emotions like that coming into this fight.”

CMC and Shaved Bears familiarity informing his awareness leading into this Graham Park fight

“Yeah, well, I did corner against Graham (Park) too. So I had a front-row seat to watching him fight Sheldon (Doll). So there is a lot of insight there. But then like you said, he had the exact same thing with me. I don’t think he was in the corner for Teddy (Ash). But he would have watched that fight, I’m sure. And you know, I’ve talked to Sheldon and I’m sure he’s talking with Teddy. We do have insight on each other. We’ve seen each other fight. I think most of my fights especially my younger ones were before every fight was on YouTube.”

Neil Berry continued, “So I might have a little bit more to hide than him. But you know it’s been a couple of years since we both fought. Or however long it’s been. And I’m sure he’s been working on stuff in preparation. Not just for me but just to be a better fighter. And that’s the same with me. I know my weaknesses I’ve been working on. And trying to strengthen my strengths and everything. I’m sure we’ve both grown a ton. Even just since we were supposed to fight last time. So it’s gonna make for an interesting matchup.”

Overall thoughts on Graham Park ahead of Unified MMA 40

“My thoughts on Graham Park. When he fought Sheldon (Doll), I think he showed a really incredible level of heart in that fight. He was in trouble with Sheldon, he was getting hurt. But he never quit. And I think that’s going to be a huge, huge factor going into this next fight. Because he’s not gonna quit, he’s tough and he’s in good shape. Skill sets aside, that makes up a huge part of the fight game.”

“He definitely has that mentality of not quitting. I don’t even know what else to say. He’s a good fighter, and he’s got a ton of skills. He’s strong and tough. It’s gonna make for a really tough challenge, really tough fight.”

Parting sentiments for Neil Berry

“I’m looking forward to it. I’m happy to have a fight confirmed again and just looking forward to it. Thank you for your time and thanks for your questions. We’ll talk again another time, I’m sure.”

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