With the loss of Khamzat Chimaev vs. Leon Edwards from the UFC Fight Island 8 card, Neil Magny suddenly finds himself in the main event spot against Michael Chiesa. And that’s a good spot to be in for the UFC’s ninth-ranked welterweight, who currently sits on a three-fight win streak.
Magny has long hovered around the top ten of the 170lb division. Occasionally, he’s crept up to the top five range. Coming off a win over ex-champ Robbie Lawler, however, it feels like the time has come to start considering Magny as a real threat to the top of the division.
For his part, Magny (24-7) agrees. “100%. I feel like a dominant win over Mike Chiesa puts me right there at the door of the top five of my division,” he told Cageside Press during a virtual media day for UFC Fight Island 8, which takes place Wednesday, January 20 — a rare mid-week show. “So right now, I kind of like the pressure on me. I like the pressure of being the second main event of 2021. I like the pressure of like ‘hey this might get you to the point of being in the top five.’ It’s about me going out there and executing at this point. That’s something I’m fully aware of, and that’s what I’m going to go out there and do.”
Now is the time to go on a run for Magny, he admitted later. “Who else do I have to blame at this point? I got myself to the top five a couple of times, and fell short at the top of the division,” said Magny. “At this point, I’m like ‘alright dude, it is now or never. Go out there and make it happen.’ There’s no excuses, there’s no holding back, there’s no waiting for tomorrow. It’s absolutely an opportunity to go out there and get things done.”
Which means a win over former lightweight Chiesa, also on a three-fight win streak at 170lbs, is crucial.
Heading into the event, Chiesa had suggested that the fight with Magny wouldn’t be pretty. A grueling, grinding affair perhaps. “There’s no other way for this fight to play out,” Magny acknowledged. “Mike’s a tough dude, he’s well rounded, he’s good everywhere. So I definitely see this being a long grueling fight, who has better conditioning, who wants it the most.”
One added bonus to Chiesa vs. Magny on Wednesday will be the presence of a crowd. They already let their voices be heard in the main event of UFC Fight Island 7, getting a “Holloway” chant going several times to support what was frankly a brilliant performance by headliner Max Holloway.
“It kind of raises the bar and sets the stage for me to go out there and perform. And that’s what I fully intend on doing,” Magny said in regard to fans returning to the building. “I’m definitely excited for it. I think it’s been close to a year now since no fans. I was actually part of one of the last events last March with fans in there. To be one of the guys to welcome fans back, I’m super excited for that opportunity, and I definitely won’t disappoint those guys.”
For those unable to attend the show at the Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday, January 20, the card will air live on ESPN (TSN in Canada). The main card kicks off rather early, at 12PM ET.