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Interview: UFC 190's Neil Magny wants to reach Conor McGregor, Ronda Rousey superstar status

Sizzling Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) 170-pound contender Neil Magny, who faces No. 6 ranked Demian Maia in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on Aug. 1, 2015, went from fighting overseas to fighting in the Octagon. And he would not have it any other way.

Buda Mendes/Getty Images

Having patience can either make or break a fighter's chance at a successful outcome in the cage. Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight contender Neil Magny plays both sides of that coin.

Magny is a winner of seven straight fights and faces his most difficult test in former Middleweight title challenger Demian Maia at UFC 190 this weekend (Sat., Aug. 1, 2015) inside HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (more the card here).

The 27-year-old's ascent into the 170-pound rankings is the culmination of years honing his mixed martial arts (MMA) skills through the guidance of men like former World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) Bantamweight champion Miguel Torres, UFC Hall of Famer Matt Hughes and head coach of Elevation Fight Team Leister Bowling.

"I was able to train four or five years or so before I took my first professional fight," Magny told MMAmania. "By the time I took my first fight, I was well-trained and well-prepared for it, rather than just rushing -- doing it for the thrill or to jump on the biggest show."

Magny's MMA career started long before his professional debut in Aug. 2010.

A New Yorker for the first 12 years of his life, his family moved to Chicago, Ill., before the new millennium, where he started hanging with the wrong crowd. Magny became involved with gangs -- a dark subculture that has long plagued the "Windy City."

In fact, Chicago has been among the top three cities in the United States with the most murders since 1985, according to Pew Research Center.

Magny was athletically gifted and found his refuge in high school sports, two of which were football and wrestling. He attended high school in nearby Thornwood, with his mind focused on bettering himself.

As a talented adolescent, Magny looked not only at ways he could improve his situation now, but also later.

"Growing up, I had a lot of people count me out as a childish kid or whatever," recalled Magny. "I knew when it came down to college, I was either going to try go to a Division-III school and try to wrestle my way through and earn a scholarship that way or join the army and have so many more possibilities open up as far as furthering my education and career options."

Magny sought out the military to improve his character and career options, but before he ever set foot on foreign soil, the martial arts seed was planted his senior year of high school. Though he excelled in football and wrestling, he still had not reached his full potential in competition.

"It was the summer before my senior year of high school," Magny said. "That summer, my football coach got us all a membership to go to the gym. I was there to lift weights and stay in shape for football. I happened to see Miguel Torres and his guys training in the back of the gym. Miguel Torres' academy was a little studio in the back of a World's Gym in Highland, Indiana.

I walked over and started talking to them for a bit and asked if I could try a class. From that point on, it was instant."

Torres taught Magny the art of ground fighting, but before he started to get serious, he left home and went into the Army. It was there where he would be exposed to a whole other side of combat and mental training.

Magny was deployed overseas and spent seven years in the Army, where he was a National Guard Sergeant. While in the Army, and unbeknownst to Magny, he would dabble in a form of hand-to-hand fighting.

As part of combatives training, he mastered the art of unarmed, close-quarters combat. It eventually lead to Magny and his fellow soldiers testing their skills against each other off of the battlefield.

"Some soldiers got together and used it as a competition as well. I was actually able to learn self defense, unarmed combat and compete against other soldiers during combatives," Magny said.

He left out the part where he became very successful at it, too. According to his UFC profile, Magny was an All-Army and All-Guard combatives champion.

Magny also grew in those seven years not only as a fighter, but also as a person. During the time he spent serving his country, the Army helped lay the groundwork for a successful future as a fighter.

"There are some comparisons that are applicable. There's a lot of sacrifice, as far as being away from people you care about and things you want to engage in. You have to focus on the goal or task at hand," emphasizes Magny. "That's something that transfers over from the military to training. You're in training camp for six days a week; away from friends and family. You're not eating things you enjoy, just kind of having that discipline and courage to sacrifice for that goal."

Fighting was always in the back of Magny's mind. Upon his return stateside, he made the decision to enroll in Southern Illinois University Edwardsville -- a Division-I school for athletics -- to pursue wrestling. While chasing his bachelor's degree in criminal justice, he also subconsciously desired a career in MMA

The future UFC welterweight stud began training with Hughes and his team at H.I.T. Squad. Focused on improving his skill-set for a still distant pro debut in MMA, Magny did his due diligence, carefully observing the inner battles that men like Hughes and future UFC champion Robbie Lawler fought before taking a bout.

"I noticed a lot of the guys were putting themselves in positions where they were fighting, not only because they enjoyed it, but to pretty much put food on the table," Magny said. "If they didn't take a fight for a couple of months, they didn't have anything to get by with or pay bills with."

Magny decided it would be best if he did not jump into MMA headfirst. He refined his all-around game and needed to start his career in law enforcement by attaining his degree.

For five years, Magny sharpened his skills that he received through some of the sports' most knowledgeable coaches in Torres and Hughes.

"From training both top game and bottom game, between both gyms, I was able to get really comfortable on my back, striking and taking guys down," remembers Magny.

He made his pro debut in Aug. 2010, racking up a 4-0 record, with three finishes, over the next three months. The year 2011 yielded mixed results for the upstart welterweight.

Magny tallied two wins, including one submission, but succumbed to the pressures of an Andrew Trace guillotine choke in July 2011. He would bounce back with a sound victory over Daniel Sandmann several months later, finally earning himself a coveted spot on UFC reality show, The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 16.

"I can literally remember I tried out for the show four times before I was selected for it. One time I was told I didn't have enough fights, another time I was too young for the season, another time it was experience," Magny said.

Magny earned his spot in the house by running through Frank Camacho in the elimination round. Then, he outpointed Cameron Diffley and Bristol Marunde, before a shocking knockout loss to eventual UFC flameout Mike Ricci.

He did not win the coveted six-figure contract, nor did he win the title of TUF, but he came way having made a great impression on UFC brass, who still gave him a pass. Magny also earned the respect and admiration of his fellow friends and castmates.

"Neil Magny I'm more jealous of than anyone else in the UFC. He's just fighting constantly and winning," said UFC Middleweight contender Sam Alvey. "I think he's got a gas tank that is good for six rounds ... let alone 15 minutes."

Some fighters get a case of UFC jitters when they make their Octagon debut. Magny did not, but his unanimous-decision victory over fellow TUF 16 contestant Jon Manley did not exactly scream promise.

However, what he did bring was a freakishly long body to the cage and lots of room for growth. Unfortunately, that growth was stunted after losses to Sergio Moraes and Seth Baczynski several months later after the Manley loss.

It was also around the time Magny was making the move to Colorado for a change of scenery, among other things.

"At the time in Illinois, I was looking for a place that had everything I needed as far as strength and conditioning, wrestling -- every aspect of MMA. I was looking for a place where I could do it all and advance as a martial artist," Magny stated. "At the end of TUF, all of the guys invited me out here to train. I knew it was an opportunity to advance myself."

From two-straight losses, to five-straight victories, Magny nearly made history in 2014, tying the record for most UFC victories in a calendar year with five. After admitting to letting outside influences get to him, he was reborn as a fighter.

Cool, calm and calculated, Magny picked apart opponents and wreaked havoc on them through his constant pressure and improved striking. Gasan Umalatov, Tim Means, Rodrigo de Lima, Alex Garcia and William Macario each felt the wrath of Magny.

Aside from current lightweight No. 1 contender, Donald Cerrone, no one had a year quite as successful as Magny in 2014. He went from relative unknown, to burgeoning 170-pound contender, in the blink of an eye with the help of his Elevation Fight Team coaches.

"I think the best thing about my coaches is they realize what I need as an individual and an athlete. They all come together," said Magny. "Loren Landow is strictly working on making me a better athlete overall. With Leister and Christian [Allen], I feel like they're doing the same as well. Leister is working on every single aspect of wrestling. If I screw up in one thing, Leister has me drill it like literally 1,000 times until I get it right.

The same thing with Christian, he doesn't let you get away with sloppy technique or doing things half-assed."

This year, Magny has picked up destructive finishes over Kiichi Kunimoto and Hyun Gyu Lim, the latter of which came after he battled food poisoning prior in training camp.

Magny approaches each fight well-prepared and focused. If he needs to break his opponent and find a weakness, he will do that. Basically, he adjusts on the fly.

In Maia, Magny faces arguably the best Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioner in UFC. The 37-year-old is a winner of two-straight fights and is a harrowing force on the mat.

"This fight is huge for me. It just shows how much I've grown in the last two years. I feel like I've grown a lot mentally and physically," Magny said. "I'm ready to go out there and put on a show for the guys and show people that I belong in the Top 5 and eventually challenge for a title soon."

Magny was recently in Las Vegas, Nevada, site of the "best ever" UFC 189 pay-per-view (PPV), to take part in UFC Fight Week. As part of the festivities, he mingled with fans, signed autographs and snapped photos with adoring children.

He could not help but bask in the glow of his rapid success.

"It's something that I'm blessed to be able to do. I've literally been in Las Vegas every year, for the past three years now every summer. It was a motivating factor to come back to the training and stay humble and work harder to reach the level that guys like McGregor and Ronda Rousey are on," Magny said.

Remember to stick with MMAmania for all of your UFC 190 coverage, including live updates, post-fight recaps, analysis and much more right here.

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