Neil Magny is happy to be fighting another former world champion, but he knows the matchup is not necessarily perfect.
The long-time UFC welterweight contender was supposed to take on Geoff Neal on the main card of Saturday’s UFC event in Las Vegas. However, due to some health complications, Neal was forced to withdraw from the contest. The UFC was able find Magny (23-7 MMA, 16-6 UFC) a replacement opponent, which turned out to be Robbie Lawler – a former UFC champion and one of the biggest names in the division.
“It caught me a little off-guard,” Magny told MMA Junkie at today’s UFC on ESPN+ 33 virtual media day. “First, when I got the email about Geoff Neal falling out, I was kind of bummed and it was like, ‘Hey, man. Geoff Neal fell out of the fight; we’re keeping you on standby. The next day was like, ‘Hey, Robbie Lawler wants to fight,’ and I was like, ‘Holy crap. This is even better.’
“So it was pure excitement and joy like, ‘Heck, yeah. I get a new opponent, and it’s a guy who’s a legend, a guy who I can really go out there and make a name for myself against.’ I was super excited to get that matchup.”
Although fighting Lawler is big opportunity for any welterweight in the UFC, Magny does admit there are cons with the matchup, things he wouldn’t have to deal if he were fighting Neal.
“The fight against Robbie Lawler, there’s a lot of prestige behind his name,” Neal said. “Obviously a former world champion and being in the sport for as long as he’s been, but at the same time, Geoff Neal is the young guy you want to test yourself against. He’s new to the UFC, he’s on an amazing win streak right now, and he’s got a lot of steam behind him.
“It’s a fight that not necessarily excites you more, but it brings its own level of excitement. If I can go out there and beat Robbie Lawler, the naysayers will say he’s past his prime, he’s this and that, and there’s going to be room for people to criticize and downplay the win. But if I were to beat a guy like Geoff Neal, it will be like, ‘Holy crap, this guy is undefeated in the UFC, he was making a sprint to the top of the division, and you stopped him in his tracks,’ so thats amazing. So each fight comes with its own list of things to take away from, but I’m happy with the Robbie Lawler matchup.”
Lawler is 38 years old and is currently on a three-fight losing streak.
Meanwhile, Magny is coming off two solid wins over Li Jingliang and Anthony Rocco Martin. A third consecutive win – and over a former champion like Lawler – would put Magny in a good spot in the division.
“It definitely throws me in the top 10, a win over Robbie Lawler,” Magny said. “But at this point, it’s literally up to me and how I perform against Robbie Lawler, and we’ll see what happens later on this year. So for me, it’s just about going out there and taking control of my career.
“If I go out there and put on a great performance against him, then I’m fighting guys in the top 10 and moving closer to that title shot. I’m not going to be as naive and say I beat Robbie Lawler on Saturday and I’m getting a title shot on Monday. I know there’s some work to be done as far as working my way through ranks and that kind of thing, but a win over Robbie Lawler definitely propels me in the right direction.”