Three and a half years ago, Ogden's Jon Neal took an MMA professional fight on a whim.
Neal, 23, had wrestled successfully while at Ogden High School, but had no experience in mixed martial arts, which combines several types of fighting disciplines. Nevertheless, at the prodding of his neighbor, MMA professional Cisco Alcantara, Neal stepped into the cage against Eric Williams on May 31, 2008. After three five-minute rounds, Neal's hand was raised in victory.
That was the start of an MMA career that kicked into gear for Neal during 2011. He has scored three more stoppages, all in the first round, and headlines in Ogden this Saturday, New Year's Eve, at Ogden's Marriott Hotel.
Neal, who weighs about 155, will meet veteran Steve Walser, of Richfield, in the main event. Walser, 5-3, upset Ogden's Dave Foley via a unanimous decision last June in West Haven.
Neal has impressed many as a top prospect in mixed martial arts. He was invited to tryouts for the Ultimate Fighter television reality show and lasted past two levels before being released with an invite to return next year and try again.
Neal, who describes himself as a freestyle fighter, is trained by Foley in Ogden. He's a full-time MMA professional, who runs daily and lifts weights with his dad, Terence, also an Ogden High alum, who he credits as a great inspiration. He respects Walser as a "heavy worker" with experience, but plans "to go out there and punch him and brawl."
There will be several fights on the Total Mayhem card at the Ogden Marriott, which begins at 8 p.m., with doors open at 7. On the card, Ogden 135-pounder Miles Welk is scheduled to make his pro debut. Also, popular local fighter, Sooksan Simpleman, 8-4, and winner of his last five fights, will meet Josh Buck, 5-12.
Other fights include Jaron Edgar versus Collin Moreland, Jason Rackham versus Colton Shupe and Johnny McGee versus David Lee. The semi main event features two women fighters, Deanna Bennett, 2-0 as an amateur, versus Jamie Herod, making her amateur debut.
The MMA card is titled Mayhem at the Marriott. The $25 admission includes invitation to a New Year's Eve dance, with a DJ, that will begin by 11, after the fights conclude. For $139, couples can get two tickets plus a room at the Marriott. According to promoter, Isaiah Salazar, Total Mayhem, which has promoted several fight cards, is devoted to making sure local gyms and their fighters are involved in the company's MMA and boxing promotions.
Total Mayhem, which has promoted several cards in Weber County this year, recently purchased its own cagefighting ring.
Prior to fight night, an MMA pre-party weigh in will occur at The Lighthouse Lounge and Sports Bar on Friday. The weigh ins start at 6 p.m. For more information on the card, call 801-627-1190.