Jordan Neer. Photo by Willie Sheldon of Sheldon Photography
It’s not often your mother says you’re good at submission moves, and she means it. But that’s an accolade Jill Henkle, obstetric director at Wayne County Hospital in Corydon, gives her son, Jordan Neer.
“It all started a long time ago” Neer says. “I remember, as a kid, I would go to Family Video with my dad [Brad Neer] in Knoxville. I’d see these UFC videos, and I’d beg him—beg him—to buy them, and he did, and I was hooked from there.”
Neer is currently 5-1 in his young professional career. He fought last Saturday in Minneapolis for the Driller MMA featherweight title against current champion Nick Compton. After dominating the first round, Neer got caught in an arm bar early in the fight to the more experienced Compton, and heads back to the gym now to train harder than before. Neer does not like to lose. But he also understands the road to his ultimate goal will not always be straight.
“It’s made me more hungry to train harder than ever. I’m not in the UFC [Ultimate Fighting Championship] yet, I’m in a smaller pro organization. I’m hoping to get to UFC. That’s where you want to be at.”
Jordan Neer has signed a contract with his cousin, Josh Neer—a veteran of the UFC, nicknamed ‘The Dentist’—and Midwest Cage Championship (MCC). Josh
Neer is famous for his heart and his determination to win, and for refusing to tap out, preferring unconsciousness.
Jordan Neer is a step away from the big leagues of mixed martial arts. The journey to this point has not been easy. Training for this sometimes bloody sport is arduous, and takes mental toughness as well as physical.
Yet it can also be something a mother can be proud of.
“Everybody has a misconception [of mixed martial arts] because there are a lot of ‘garage fights’ that aren’t regulated,” Henkle says. “I can tell you, it’s been a process for him to get the fight in Minnesota. They have to have a clean blood screen. They do a neural exam the night before the fight so they know where he’s at neurologically. And he had to have an eye exam before he could fight in Minnesota. What he does is very well regulated. He has a great promoter—Matt really watches out for him. Matt’s a good guy.”
Matt Rider of Ankeny is Neer’s promoter.
“We’ll have a UFC scout and a Bellator scout sitting at our table,” Henkle says. “Those are the two big players right now. They’ll be looking at him, and trying to decide where we go from there.
“[Josh Neer] has helped Jordan, and kind of been a mentor. He said one of the first things you don’t want to do is jump into the UFC—you want to come up slowly, and get your feet and your head about you. All the lights and the TV—get your head into it first. Go up through the ranks and pay your dues. That’s what Jordan’s doing now.”
Jordan Neer was an outstanding wrestler at Centerville High School, where he graduated in 2007, reaching the number two ranking in his weight class. He also practiced Tae-Kwon Do with Lance McMahon in Centerville for several years.
“It’s good discipline,” Neer says of Tae-Kwon Do.
Neer trains heavily in boxing and jiu-jitsu. He found the transition from wrestling to jiu-jitsu natural.
“I click on to jiu-jitsu better than anything else,” Neer says. “I’m starting to get standup better now.”
By standup, Neer is referring to non-ground situations, whether in a clench or simply within striking distance of the opponent, which involve techniques such as boxing or Tae-Kwon Do.
Jordan practices in Centerville, but also travels to the facility Josh Neer trains at, RoundKick Gym in Urbandale.
“He show’s me [stuff], and I bring it back home where I work, and practice it and drill it,” Jordan Neer says. “That’s how I learn new techniques from him.”
In regard to martial arts styles, Jordan Neer says of MMA, “It’s everything really, all in one. This sport is one of a kind. You’ve got to do at least a two-hour practice at night, and then you’ve got to have your strength and conditioning. Then you’ve got to cut weight. It’s really mental and physical.”
Neer spends two to three hours per day training, taking Sunday off to give his body a rest.
“A lot of kids get into it after high school. But it’s a lot of work, and after they show up for practice, they’re done. You don’t see them again.”
Neer started practicing when he was 18 years old, and trained for several years before losing interest.
“What started me back up was that I was working at my machine,” Neer says. “I said, you know what? I have talent. What am I doing here pushing this freaking button.”
Neer works at C&C Machining in Centerville.
“I do like my job, but I was at a point where I asked myself am I going to be somebody, or am I going to work in a factory the rest of my life? I want to do something I really want to do.
“I called a promoter, and I had a fight the next month.”
Neer went 14-1 as an amateur. He turned professional around a year ago.
“I was nervous,” Neer says of his first pro bout. “I was about to [vomit]. I asked myself, ‘What am I getting myself into?’”
That first contest was spur of the moment. Neer spoke with a friend, who told him that he was fighting that night. His friend called his promoter, and Neer took a fight that day. They went to Wisconsin, and though he lost that first bout—which did not count against his current professional record—it was an invaluable lesson.
When asked what he learned from his first professional fight, Neer responded instantly: “That I don’t want to lose again. I’ll do anything not to lose.”
The fans at the fights keep Neer coming back, training six days a week.
“They chant for you, and that gets you going. It doesn’t even hit you until you get in the cage. As you soon as you step in there, and they start hollering your name, you feel it. The fans, and winning.”
Despite the violent competition, Neer finds that competitors are respectful of each other.
“I don’t want to trash talk somebody,” Neer says. “What does that really do? There’s no point in that at all.
“You’ve got to think, ‘This dude’s coming to take my head off.’ 80 percent of the fights in MMA go to the ground. You’ve got to prepare to go to the ground, or take your opponent to the ground.
“As a fighter, my strength is my explosiveness. You have to explode into a takedown.”
Neer feels he needs to work most on his standup techniques.
“I watch him train so hard, and keep his weight under control,” Henkle says of her son. “I would not have that determination and willpower that he has. This is something unexpected. He was always a good wrestler in high school, but for him to do what he’s doing now, and for him to hit his prime, it’s been a little surprise for us.”
Henkle has been to all of Neer’s professional fights but one.
“I missed the first one because one of my best friends was getting married that night.
“He had fought amateur about two years ago. He got to the point where they said you need to do something more. That’s when he made the commitment to step it up a notch,” Henkle says, adding with a laugh, “and make some money.”
MMA is an evolving sport. There are rules and limitations, which include no biting, no hitting below the belt or from the ear back on the head, and no professional wrestling style straight-down elbows. There has also been discussion of restricting other forms of elbow strikes.
“This sport’s taught me a lot about what the body can go through,” Neer says. “I am totally a better person because of it. It’s taught me discipline and self-confidence. It’s been a blessing in disguise for me. Everyone is talented at something. You’ve got to find your thing. I think this is what I was born to do, what God put me here for.
“People think it’s pretty much human cockfighting. I don’t see it that way at all. We’re humans, and we do have choices. You don’t have to get in that ring if you don’t want to. The other guy has signed the contract. He’s training, I’m training.
“MMA has evolved so much lately. There’s more testing done for steroids, etc. It’s way better now.
“You’re fighting. It’s taking everything out of you. You have to calm down, but you have to keep your muscles warm. If you don’t get jitters before you walk in that cage, then you don’t belong there.”
Outside of the cage, Neer loves to fish and enjoys water sports. He is the grandson of local aviator Benny Davis and wife Joan.
“I’ve been training for three months straight,” Neer says. “I haven’t had a Mountain Dew [during that time], and I’m craving one bad.”
Neer thanks his mom, his dad, his stepdad, family, friends and fans.
“It’s pretty awesome all the support I get,” Neer says.
“It makes me an absolute wreck to watch him,” Henkle says. “He’s totally dedicated, he’s thrown everything he has into this. It’s a once in a lifetime shot. Not every kid from a small town community gets an opportunity like this.”