UFC welterweight contender Geoff Neal has explained why he was “irritated” at being the subject of a callout from Shavkat Rakhmonov.
At UFC Vegas 59, Neal brought perhaps the best iteration of himself yet to the Octagon for his co-main event collision with Vicente Luque. Having returned to the win column in his prior outing versus Santiago Ponzinibbio, “Hands of Steel” turned his attention towards an ascent up the rankings.
And he secured a sizeable climb courtesy of a memorable and practically flawless performance against “The Silent Assassin.” After controlling the bout through two rounds, Neal capped off the impressive display by becoming the first man to knock Luque out in professional MMA.
In his post-fight interview, Neal set his sights on Luque’s teammate and friend Gilbert Burns, who currently occupies a spot in the divisional top five. But the result also grabbed the attention of another Kill Cliff FC standout.
On Twitter, rising contender Rakhmonov threw his name into the hat to face Neal next, offering to relieve “Durinho” of the American as a potential opponent.
Rakhmonov has forged a destructive path en route to the #11 spot in the division. In four appearances in the Octagon, the former M-1 welterweight champion has extended his perfect professional record to 16-0 — a résumé that includes a submission victory over Neil Magny, who boasts a fairly recent win over Neal.
During a recent exclusive interview with MMA News’ own James Lynch, Neal responded to Rakhmonov’s callout. While he noted that their paths might cross eventually, “Hands of Steel” reiterated his immediate post-fight remarks, whilst also criticizing the surging Kazakh for looking to “jump right in.”
“I mean, if it comes down to it, yeah, I’ll do it. But right now, I made my callout, so that’s who I wanna go for,” Neal said. “If something comes later on down the road, you know, if I don’t get the fight with Gilbert, and he’ll probably still be there if he’s not matched up, then yeah, I’ll do that.
“Right now, I’m not really worried about him. I’m kinda irritated that he just wanted to jump right in. I was like, ‘No, I called somebody out, I’m not talking to you right now.’ But we’ll see,” Neal added.
Neal Names What Would Determine Fight Versus Rakhmonov
Despite clearly having other plans for his 10th fight under the UFC banner, which is perhaps understandable given his latest triumph and desire to climb the ranks, the #8-ranked Neal did assess a potential matchup with Rakhmonov down the line.
After acknowledging the well-rounded game of “Nomad,” Neal suggested that cardio will be the difference-maker should they share the cage in the future.
“I mean, I watched the Magny fight, and I also watched when he beat Carlston Harris,” Neal noted. “He’s solid. He’s a tough dude. He’s big, he’s tall, he’s long, he has solid striking, and he’s a good wrestler. So, that’ll be an interesting matchup.
“Really, cardio is gonna be the decider if me and him ever fought. I gotta out-pace him, I gotta out-last him. If he grabs me, I gotta be able to get out of his takedown attempts and just keep the fight where I’m good at,” Neal concluded.
Catch our exclusive interview with top-10 welterweight contender Geoff Neal below:
How do you think a fight between Geoff Neal and Shavkat Rakhmonov would play out?