(“The Dentist” attempts an extraction on Din Thomas. Courtesy Zuffa, LLC)
By FIGHT! contributor Matt Burosh
“As an amateur, I knocked out two different guys’ teeth, two weeks in a row,” says Josh Neer. “The announcer said I was always knocking people’s teeth out, so he started calling me ‘The Dentist’ and it just kinda stuck.”
Those amateur fights in Des Moines, Iowa were a weekly ritual for Neer, a recently graduated high school wrestler. “I didn’t train before I started fighting,” admits Neer, but he claims to have racked up 90 wins against one loss over a two-year amateur career before deciding to get serious about MMA.
But the year was 2003 and fight gyms weren’t commonplace, leaving Neer to his own wits. “I’ve been self-taught [for much of my career],” says Neer. “Whoever I could learn from, I did. I learned jiu-jitsu from a guy named Curtis Brigham, and then I trained in Des Moines, IA before going to Miletich Fighting Systems in Bettendorf [Iowa].”
Neer is three fights into his third hitch with the UFC, suffering a single loss in 2005, going 2-2 in 2006, and winning two out of three since 2008 with appearances at regional shows in between. Now “The Dentist” has an appointment with Kurt Pellegrino at UFC 101 on August 8 in Philadelphia, Pa.
To prepare, Neer has made his way back to his hometown, training at Des Moines MMA with Anthony Porcelli. “It’s basically a gym that he and I started before I went to MFS,” Neer says.
“Kurt is a well rounded fighter,” he says, “[But] I read in an interview that he basically doesn’t even like fighting, that he does it for the money [and] if he could get paid to do jiu-jitsu he would do that. To me I think that is a weakness. To me he’s saying he’s not a fighter.” Neer takes this almost as a personal affront. “I love the feeling when my fist first meets the face of my opponent and it’s go time,” he says, “I love the one-on-one competition—that you basically have to make the other guy quit. That’s what I try to do in all of my fights.”
FIGHT! Fans: Do you think Neer’s powerful hands give him a definitive advantage over Kurt Pellegrino?