A Change of Scenery for a Change of Fortune

By Jason Burgos Dec 14, 2018

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The last two years have been a difficult time in Liam McGeary’s career. The former Bellator MMA light heavyweight champion has lost his last two bouts and three of his last four. The Englishman expects to rectify his missteps with a new outlook on life at Bellator 213 on Saturday in Honolulu.

Aside from his Bellator 173 win over Brett McDermott, McGeary, 36, has recently suffered losses to Linton Vassell and former 205-pound champion Phil Davis. In February, he incurred a third-round technical knockout loss to rising Russian prospect Vadim Nemkov. That loss was the most painful of the three -- literally -- as the first leg kick thrown by Nemkov fractured McGeary’s left fibula.

“For the rest of the fight, every time I put my foot down, I felt an electric shock,” McGeary told Sherdog.com. “It messed up the entire fight.”

With his lead leg so badly compromised, McGeary was unable to make use of his striking. He instead attempted to gain an advantage on the mat, and at one point, he succeeded.

“As soon as we got down to the ground,” he said, “I locked in that triangle.”

However, on the mat, he was every bit as disadvantaged as he was on his feet. Due to the fracture in his leg, no matter how hard he squeezed on the hold, he could not apply enough pressure to put the Alexander Nevsky Club fighter in any danger. It was a difficult night for him. The Russian even damaged McGeary’s rib cartilage by throwing him to the mat. In the end, Nemkov earned the respect of his opponent.

“He was a strong kid,” McGeary said. “I’m not going to take away anything from him. Yeah, I got beat up.”

It took McGeary several months to recover from the broken fibula. Looking back, it all seems like a blur.

“To be honest with you,” he said, “I was lying on a beach drinking and smoking, and I wasn’t really paying much attention to what was going on.”

In a way, his mind and training camp have gone through a form of recovery, as well. He no longer lives in New York or trains at the Renzo Gracie Academy. He will not go so far as to say the losses forced him to make changes in his life, but he realized adjustments were necessary.

“I just wanted a change of scenery, and that was pretty much it,” McGeary said. “For myself and my mental [well-being], I needed to change my environment, change what was going on around me, a change in lifestyle.”

That change included moving to Hawaii and basing his camps out of California’s Huntington Beach Ultimate Training Center. The transition has been seamless so far, as the gym seems to blend well with who he is as a fighter.

“My work ethic fits right in with their coaching methods. Everything that the coaches have been teaching me and showing me, I have soaked it up like a sponge,” he said.

The father of two seems rejuvenated by the change in gyms and gets a kick out of asking his training partners their ages.

“‘How old are you?’” he asks them. “‘Oh, I’m 23’ [they say], and I’m like, ‘S---, man, I’m 30-[expletive]-6.”

McGeary enjoys his profession and sounds energized about returning to the cage at the Neal S. Blaisdell Center in Hawaii.

“I’m looking forward to getting in there,” he said.

McGeary believes he has grown as a fighter at his new camp. However, he will not detail how he has improved, as he would rather viewers watch and see for themselves.

“I’m waiting till [then] to actually show you, and afterwards, you’ll be able to see exactly what changing the camp and changing the environment is all about. I’ve flourished where I’m at,” he said.

When McGeary enters the cage, a stalwart of the promotion’s 205-pound weight class -- Muhammed Lawal -- will be standing across from him. The former Strikeforce champion has long been lauded for his wrestling, but Lawal’s standup has also proven dangerous. In preparation for “King Mo,” McGeary has worked with a variety of grapplers, including several NCAA wrestlers. He has faith in his coaches, as they have experience preparing for Lawal.

“I’m fully prepared. These guys know who ‘King Mo’ is. They know his game and they’ve trained a few people for him, so I’m just going to go in there, do my thing and win,” McGeary said.

McGeary does not like to plan too far in advance. In fact, he never had designs on becoming a professional mixed martial artist.

“I kind of just fell into this job anyway,” he said. “It wasn’t something like I wanted to be a fighter.”

That has allowed him to avoid pondering the end of his career as he inches closer to 40. Now a veteran of 15 bouts, McGeary expects to map out his future on a year-by-year basis.

“We’ll see how my body holds up. We’ll see how things end up,” he said. “I don’t want to plan anything. Whatever happens will happen.”

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