It’s very common to see fighters who got started in mixed martial arts as a way to get into shape, especially on the local level.
But not many of them can say that they have dropped nearly 170 pounds.
“At my heaviest I was 392 [pounds] and I walk around at 225 [pounds],” Neff told BluegrassMMA. “It has made my cardio go up leaps and bounds. It made my submission game go up because I can actually get in the positions that I want be in. I feel as strong as my opponents now. It’s given me so much confidence because I was able to compete with super heavyweights. Now I feel I can compete with higher abilities with the light heavyweights.”
After debuting in 2014, Neff competed in his first nine amateur bouts as a super heavyweight and then once as a heavyweight. He was 4-6 in those bouts, but since dropping to 205 pounds, he is 3-0 with all three wins via stoppage.
Neff credits his work with two different gyms to the turnaround in his career.
“I have been training with Victory MMA and Route 250 [Martial Arts] under Terry Blackwell and Andrew Law; I’ve been keeping my cardio up and making sure my reactions are on time,” Neff said. “It has gone good. My weight cut has been the easiest I’ve ever done. Just making sure the tools stay sharp.”
Now in a the main event on a big fight card before Thanksgiving, Neff may have the toughest test of his career to date in the surging Sentner, who has finished all three of his opponents via strikes after debuting just over a year ago.
“He is a big strong guy so I know he will come out heavy from the gate so I just need to stay calm, work my game plan, attack his cardio and look for my openings in the second and third round,” Neff said. “He comes from Ares [Combat Sports] which is a good wrestling gym. I am sure his wrestling will be sharp and he hits hard. So I need to be ready for everything.”
Despite coming down two weight classes, Neff will still be giving up nine inches as a 5’6″ fighter against the 6’3″ Sentner.
“I have a thick frame so I don’t think I will ever fight someone as tall as I am because they are at much lower weight classes for the most part,” Neff said. “Everyone I have fought has had at least 6 inches on me. I train with many tall guys so I work on getting inside. Nothing in this game is unfair. I know what I signed up for.”
As for his future, Neff is still just 25 years old and feels like he has a long way to go with 13 amateur fights under his belt.
“I see going pro in my near future,” Neff said. “But right now I am just working on getting every able experience I can. Maybe one day I can run a gym of my own.”
Of course the favorite day of the year for big guys is probably Thanksgiving, and Neff plans on indulging – but not until after the fight is over on Thursday.
“It’s terrible everyone is cooking Thanksgiving food right now,” Neff said. “But I am looking forward to enjoying my Thanksgiving even more now that my fight will be done. It is better than fighting after Thanksgiving.”
Caged Thunder 10 takes place at Emido & Sons Banquet Hall in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio on Wednesday night. Check out the full lineup here.
Thank yous from James:
I would like to thank Victory MMA and Route 250 for my career turn around. I would like to thank my nephew Devon Watkins for being there through everything, every loss and every win. And last but not least I would like to thank my beautiful girlfriend for cooking every meal and being my support during the ugly parts of weight cutting. I would also like to thank you guys at BluegrassMMA for the opportunity by putting my name out there.
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