Stephen Neal plays host at UFC event


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Back in February, I was in Indianapolis to cover the scouting combine, and Randy Couture was there to promote MMAthletics’ program for football training, and at a bar during one of those nights conversation turned to the possibility Stephen Neal could eventually have a carry in mixed martial arts.

Couture — who, like Neal, has a wrestling background — couldn’t have been more emphatic in saying YES!

Chances are, Neal won’t be pursuing that kind of career, but that doesn’t mean he won’t continue to be a fan. Turns out, the former champion wrestler has been watching MMA since his Cal State-Bakersfield days and that made him the perfect host for Tom Brady, Wes Welker and some other teammates at Saturday night’s UFC 118 at the Garden.

“(Brady) was asking me questions, and I don’t know everything, but I’m just trying to say stuff like, ‘OK, he’s on top now and he’s gonna try and get the full mount, and start punishing him pretty good,’” Neal said. “He gets it pretty good. He’s been to a couple of them, and I was appreciative he let me go sit next to him – Those were great seats, boy, I’ll tell ya.”

Neal and Brady were actually seated next to UFC founder and local boy Dana White and new Celtic Shaquille O’Neal ringside.


But the whole night was a thrill for Neal. He’s been a fan for a while, and his connection to the sport has only grown as former wrestling rivals (Brock Lesnar) and teammates (Tito Ortiz) of his have gotten involved.

Its growth is clear in the excitement generated here in Boston, not traditionally a UFC stronghold, over the weekend.

“I’ve been to an event in Vegas, and everyone flies in for that thing, so I think the fans might get it a little bit more out there,” Neal said. “They’re one or two steps ahead with the cheering, they might see the moves coming a little quicker. But hopefully it takes off out here. Dana White’s doing a great job promoting here and bringing it back to his home state.”

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As for his own pursuit of a career, I get the idea Neal knows he could be good at it. But that doesn’t mean he’s gonna do it.

“You never say never, but I’ve got my full plate with football,” Neal said. “I don’t know if I can work hard enough to get into that kind of shape. Twenty-five minutes, 15 minutes of just fighting, no breaks, that’s hard. That’d be a lot of effort, just to get in that kind of shape.”