On May 7, 2010 at MFC 25: Vindication, up and coming Victoria-based fighter Gavin Neil (7-1) will be stepping into the ring against Richie “The Dirty Samurai” Hightower (8-3-1), an alumni of that infamous MMA reality show, in a fight that has strong potential to bring fireworks to the crowd at the Edmonton Expo Centre at Northlands.
Gavin trains at Zuma Martial Arts in Victoria under the guidance and management of Adam Zugec, one of the elite few Brazilian jiu-jitsu fighters to be awarded a black belt by 7th-degree BJJ black belt Marcus Soares. Also an instructor in Erik Paulson’s Combat Submission Wrestling and a Thai boxing instructor under Ajarn Chai, Zugec is no stranger to the fight game.
Starting his professional MMA career at MFC 14: High Rollers on November 23, 2007, Gavin fought roughly every other month until MFC 19: Long Time Coming on December 5th, 2008. Then he took a bit of a break, fighting in a couple of other promotions before deciding to return to the Maximum Fighting Championship under a new three fight exclusive deal, for his upcoming ninth fight at MFC 25 on May 7th, 2010.
Neil is direct when asked about his decision to return, “it’s nice to be back in a legit organization like the MFC because I was a little disappointed with last promotion I fought under. It was actually the most ghetto event I’ve been in yet… sort of like the backwoods muay thai events I used to do when I was 15.” Zugec also sees the return to the Maximum Fighting Championship as a good move for Gavin. “The great thing about Mark Pavelich is that he’s been around for a long time and knows how to put on a professional show. When we show up to fight he’s always organized… the itinerary is laid out and everything. There’s no bullshit. The Maximum Fighting Championship is very polished – it’s the way a show should be.”
When asked to describe Neil’s fighting style and persona, Zugec takes a second to think. “Gavin’s a bit hard to explain. He kind of looks like a country bumpkin who’s out of shape. People will look at him and laugh. But he’s actually one of the toughest kids out there and he trains super hard. He’s a great stand-up fighter, composed on the ground, very well schooled.”
It’s all a testament to the diversity of the sport of mixed martial arts. “MMA is definitely an everyman sport”, muses Neil. “It’s an odd mix. Some people are into it because it’s the new thing. And then you have big nerds in there competing on the same level with the ‘tough guy’ types.”
So what happens when a character like Gavin Neil shows up in the nickname-happy sport of mixed martial arts? MFC CEO Mark Pavelich has an idea, “I like to call him the Forrest Gump of MMA”. And what does Gavin think of that? “Well it isn’t the worst nickname I’ve had… when I was 230, people called me ‘Snacks’. And I’ll never have a name like ‘Killer’ or anything like that.”
Gavin Neil comes across as an unassuming guy, but one who’s serious about his MMA. Zugec reinforces this impression. “Gavin doesn’t really need or care about getting attention. But he definitely wants respect as a fighter.” When told that he has a growing following in Edmonton, Gavin seems a bit sheepish. “Well last time I was in Edmonton, some guys recognized me and knew my name. I’m not used to that. Maybe people in Alberta go for the ‘country boy’ look.”
Does Zugec see any long-term plans for Gavin? “We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves, so we’re just taking it one fight at a time and concentrating on our next opponent – Richie Hightower. This is going to be a good fight because Gavin always comes to fight and Richie wants to prove that he isn’t just some guy from that reality show. Richie likes to throw bombs and he’ll be coming out to win. But if you hit Gavin, he’s going to hit you back.”
“I think we match up well”, Gavin says about his upcoming fight. “I just have to make sure to watch out for his big overhand right. That, and keep doing what I always do… fight him in his weakest area.”
Want to watch Gavin Neil throw down against Richie “The Dirty Samurai”
Hightower? Then come to the Edmonton Expo Centre at Northlands for MFC 25:
Vindication on Friday, May 7, 2010. For those who can’t make it (or who wait too long to try to buy tickets), the show will be aired live on HDNet Fights.
Gavin vs. Richie will be the first televised fight.
by Jeff Chan MFC Staff