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Brock Lesnar, Patriots Guard Neal Reminisce About the Good Old Days

(It’s creepy how his eyes just follow you.)

One of the few people to beat Brock Lesnar in his college wrestling days was New England Patriots guard Stephen Neal (seen above), who beat the new UFC heavyweight champ 3-2 back in 1999. In today’s Boston Herald, both men look back on the match and the different paths they’ve taken since then. Though Neal is an NFL offensive lineman now, he never played football in college. He was just a big, strong, athletic freak who somebody saw a lot of potential in. Kind of reminds you of someone else.

At the time of their meeting in the NCAA tourney, Neal was the defending champ and future World Champ. Lesnar was a bit of an underdog, to hear him tell it:

“I literally had about three months of wrestling at the Div. 1 level and the next thing I knew I was the Big Ten champ in the NCAA finals against returning national champion Stephen Neal,” Lesnar said. “I didn’t even know what was going on until it was over. It was a whirlwind. I didn’t have time to be scared or nervous. I just figured, ‘Well, I’m beating everyone else, I don’t know why I can’t beat this guy.’ But I came up a little short.”

Both men remember the match well. Lesnar powered out of Neal’s early single-leg attempt before shooting for a double-leg takedown of his own. Neal spun deftly away for the two-point reversal and it was game on.

“I think I surprised him a little when he attempted that takedown and was unsuccessful,” Lesnar said. “I had overpowered him and muscled my way out of it.”

Am I the only one who thinks “muscled my way out of it” has been something of a mantra for Brock Lesnar over the course of his life? You can’t argue with the results, I suppose.

Neal won the match with an escape in the final minutes, and obviously went on to big things. He got on with the Pats as an undrafted free agent, and three years later was a starter for the Super Bowl winners. He says he thinks Lesnar could have done the same if he’d stuck with football. Lesnar, however, wasn’t terribly interested:

“When I got cut I was kind of relieved and disappointed at the same time,” Lesnar said. “I just wasn’t feeling it in my gut anymore. I had other things on my mind, and you get tossed around on the football field a little bit, you get humbled pretty quickly.”

Neal is described as “a UFC fan who trained with former champ Tito Ortiz,” but says he doesn’t know if he could trade places with Lesnar these days:

“I thought about it when I was younger,” Neal said. “I’m pretty happy with what I’m doing. If I have any part of my body left to do that stuff … no, I don’t see it. I’ve had too many problems with my body that it would probably be hard to deal with those guys.”

Personally, I think it’s just nice to see MMA and pro football being treated on an equal footing in a national publication. And it makes you wonder about the guys in the future who may choose the UFC over the NFL.


Cagepotato Comments

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JohnS- November 19, 2008 at 5:58 pm
He reminds me of "teen wolf".
Ca-Ca Doody- November 19, 2008 at 11:23 am
Neal has fancy hair.
HA HA- November 19, 2008 at 2:31 am
That's all we need in MMA....a bunch of roided up, stupid ass, football players.....
Hurricane- November 19, 2008 at 12:18 am
^^You make good points. In order for the fighters to get better, they need to start younger, and most parents don't realize that a grappling art like sambo is a much wiser investment than pretty much any form of karate.

My point with the strong local to compliment the national is that, as of now, the average Joe assumes the only good fighting is the UFC. And unfortunately, because many local promoters will book anyone willing to fight for free (or damn close to it, unfortunately for many local "pro" MMA shows), the quality of many local shows does nothing but reaffirm his opinion. However, the average Joe will gladly go watch a high school football game, and which is essentially the same thing: Local level sport featuring inferior talent and strategy.
maxwell- November 18, 2008 at 10:17 pm
In order for MMA to gain respect at the national level, there needs to be a strong local level to compliment the UFC. Football is football because the NCAA is just as fun to watch as the NFL, for the same and for different reasons.

I don't think you can really compare mma to football/basketball/baseball etc. Fighting is different. Boxing has been around forever and doesn't work that way. There aren't that many parents that are going to sign their kids up for mma like they would soccer or tball. To get into mma/boxing/any other combat sport is a completely different, much more personal thing. To succeed in mma you need to be an athlete AND a fighter. Gyms are kinda the local equivalent to tball leagues. Although, I do agree, it would be nice to see the smaller local mma type shows hold themselves to a higher standard, but that will come in time as mma becomes more mainstream.
Brandon- November 18, 2008 at 10:03 pm
Stephen is one of the nicest guys I've ever met. I met him during a wrestling camp while I was in high school. He's always really upbeat and smiling, plus he has the nastiest double-leg take down I've ever seen.

Look him up on youtube. They have a few videos of him. I think they even have him vs. Brock.
Harry Balzonya- November 18, 2008 at 8:19 pm
Professional wrestlers aren’t athletes and can’t be compared to NFL players.
That's probably true, but you can't deny Brock's credentials. He's a decorated wrestler and to remain in the shape that he's in. Sure, I'd say he's an athlete.
Ennis- November 18, 2008 at 7:47 pm
Stephan Neal's girlfriend awhile back was my high school PE teacher. He seems to have been a pretty cool guy.
Hurricane- November 18, 2008 at 7:41 pm
Old, Bald and Irish Says:

"On the other hand, guy’s who get cut or retire (while they still can) may be able to get a couple of good MMA years in. It would be tough. Football just ruins players bodies."

That is my line of thought: Local MMA promotions should go after the football players who go undrafted. Think about it: Every year, there are very athletic, famous players who go undrafted, or get cut before the start of the season. Some players from this year were Texas WRs Billy Pittman and Nate Jones, Oklahoma State RB Dantrell Savage, and UMiami QB Kyle Wright. Don't think a Florida resident wouldn't pay to see Kyle Wright continue to play a sport?

I know the argument is always "MMA ISN'T BOXING!!!!", but that's how a lot of local boxing shows are still successful: They pit local policemen/retired military personel in easy fights thast they should at least be competitive in, and the pathos draws in people who could otherwise care less about the sport.

In order for MMA to gain respect at the national level, there needs to be a strong local level to compliment the UFC. Football is football because the NCAA is just as fun to watch as the NFL, for the same and for different reasons.
Fenix- November 18, 2008 at 6:44 pm
"Professional Wrestlers" HA!!!!

I always laugh when I hear that. Don't know why they arent called Wrestling Actors. They should have a category for them in the primetime Emmys.
For Serious- November 18, 2008 at 6:38 pm
Athletes! i'll tell you what a real athlete is..............................a fierce curling player is the true definition of an athlete!
Ross- November 18, 2008 at 6:36 pm
Professional wrestlers aren't athletes and can't be compared to NFL players.
buns- November 18, 2008 at 6:10 pm
the jets won because of rampage!!!
RTS- November 18, 2008 at 6:09 pm
Lesnar had a tryout with the Vikings as a defensive tackle. Obviously, he was going to be a project. In the end the Vikings decided to save the roster spot for someone else.
babcock- November 18, 2008 at 6:03 pm
NFL caliber athletes? ahem? I think if you ask anybody the caliber of athlete as a wrestler (or fighter) or an NFL player im pretty sure the wrestler is the more athletic one.
Old, Bald and Irish- November 18, 2008 at 5:27 pm

"Anonymous" got that right!

Money talks. You wanna get NFL caliber athletes in MMA? You gotta pay up.

On the other hand, guy's who get cut or retire (while they still can) may be able to get a couple of good MMA years in. It would be tough. Football just ruins players bodies.
Higgz- November 18, 2008 at 5:20 pm
I'd like to see a Neal vs. Lesnar SUMO match ala Earthquake vs. Yokozuna...that'd REALLY settle things!
Anonymous- November 18, 2008 at 4:59 pm
if only the UFC had multi million dollar contracts stephen neal could've become the UFC HW champ saturday!
Crap Factory- November 18, 2008 at 4:50 pm
I beat Brock at checkers once. Does that count?