Gunnar Nelson pays tribute to Neil Seery and explains why grapplers find it tough to excel in the UFC

The UFC welterweight looks ahead to his headline bout in Belfast in November

BY Cian Roche 08:22 Thursday 22 September 2016, 8:22 22 Sep 2016

Image: John Locher / AP/Press Association Images

Gunnar Nelson has paid tribute to Ireland's Neil Seery after the Team Ryano fighter announced he would be retiring after UFC Belfast in November.

The 37-year-old announced he would call it a day after the fight yesterday and said he wanted to spend more time with his family and young children. 

The Icelandic fighter, who headlines the card with a bout against Dong Hyun Kim, described the flyweight as a "genuine" fighter and said that he could retire proud of his achievements.

"He’s just so original," he said. "I don’t know what to call it exactly. He just goes in there and gives it all. He’s just so fun to watch.

"He’s such a genuine guy, I just love to watch him fight. You just know how he’s going to give his heart in there. It doesn’t matter what happens, he’s still just going to give it all."

Asked whether Seery could walk away with his head held high he replied: "Absolutely, I think so. I’m proud of him anyway. Very much so. I look up to him in so many ways."

While mixed martial arts is still illegal in his home country, Nelson said that fighting in Ireland feels like a home fight for him.

"It feels phenomenal. I’ve been here so long and to get that same feel from the people that I feel towards them and towards Ireland.

"It was before I was in the UFC, I started to feel like I had a big following in Ireland and a lot of people got to know me. A lot of people thought I was Irish because I was always here competing and training and John [Kavanagh] as my coach.

"Even I get a lot of the time people say I have an Irish accent. I learned how to speak [English] in Ireland. I didn’t really know how to speak until I was 17 or something.

"It’s awesome to have a main event here in Ireland. The last time it didn’t go my way, but main event or not - it’s awesome to be a main event especially for me here - but it’s always going to be a fight.

"I’m always going to fight whoever is put in front of me and wherever abouts on the card it is isn’t majorly important. The mindset is the same."

Fans in his home country who know him well are expected to make the relatively short trip to support Nelson in the SSE Arena in a few weeks' time.

"I think there’s going to be a lot this time. It’s an easy flight over.

"It’s not a big Arena… I’ve been getting tickets as much as I can for my fans and for guys in the gym. We’ll see how many people get tickets, but I think it’s going to be a big crowd. They’re going to get along with the Irish."

Nelson is renowned for his grappling ability and just how capable he is of finishing a fight on the ground. However, the 28-year-old says that the more unspectacular style of fighting may work against him, as opposed to those in the division who are considered greater strikers.

"I definitely think so, I think we all know that. People want to see big bombs and people being knocked out. That seems to be what most people want to see.

"There’s less people that appreciate great groundwork. I think it’s just harder to understand. It’s easy to understand swinging a fist at somebody’s face.

"For the groundwork, it can be hard to see what’s going on. If you don’t know it, they’re just there hugging. But for those who know and appreciate good groundwork, it's pure art.

"A lot of the time when I watch MMA fights and I see great transitions on the ground, it’s like the highlight of the fight for me."

Tickets to UFC FIGHT NIGHT®: KIM vs. NELSON will be available to the general public on Friday, September 23 from 10:00a.m BST via the SSE Arena box office and Ticketmaster.

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