When he was a kid, Geoff “Handz of Steel” Neal, 28, bought boxing gloves and sparred with his friends on a regular basis. On July 27, he will fight in UFC 240 at Rogers Arena in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

Neal, a 2008 Copperas Cove graduate, will be making his 14th professional MMA appearance, fourth in the UFC. Neal sports a professional MMA record of 11-2 (3-0 UFC).

He is currently on a five-match winning streak. His last loss came Jan. 28, 2017, to Kevin Holland in the main event of Xtreme Knockout 34.

In his UFC fights, Neal scored wins against Brian Camozzi, Frank Camacho and Belal Muhammad.

Neal’s coach, Sayif Saud, said he has good hands.

“I think he has the best boxing in his division in the UFC,” Saud said.

Neal will face Niko Price in UFC 240 in the Welterweight Division. The fight is on the main card, scheduled prior to the co-main event.

“He’s a tough dude,” Neal said of Price. “His style is similar to mine in the aspect that we like to throw hands; we’re not heavy in the wrestling department. It’s a great fight for the fans.”

Saud said Price is a challenging opponent.

“He’s a really tough guy, very unorthodox,” he said of Price. “Geoff stacks up well against him, but really it just comes down to execution.”

Neal has been training in MMA since 2010.

“I wasn’t keen of working a regular job, going to college,” he said.

After graduating from Cove High, Neal attended Texas Lutheran University in Seguin. He initially went to college to be a police officer, but quickly realized it was not what he wanted to do. His heart was always to be an MMA fighter.

“Growing up, I’ve always been a fan of fighting and martial arts,” Neal said, who now lives in the Dallas area.

After about five months of training, Neal participated in his first fight in the amateur ranks. Fighting in various cities and venues in the country, Neal built up an amateur record of 10-1.

When Neal’s trainer and coach Hector Ruiz felt he was ready to turn pro, he followed.

“I trusted him. I knew he wasn’t going to put me in a situation I couldn’t handle, so whenever he told me I was ready to go pro, I just followed him,” Neal said.

Neal got his chance with the UFC while fighting in the Legacy Fighting Alliance.

Neal said it is from where many of the UFC fighters are recruited.

On July 14, 2017, he recorded a first-round knockout. The next week, his coach, Sayif Saud of Fortis MMA in Dallas, called him on a Friday and told him he was flying to Las Vegas the next day. In a whirlwind of a few days, Neal fought on July 25, 2017, in Las Vegas on UFC President Dana White’s televised “Contender Series.” He scored a first-round knockout against Chase Weldon. After the win, Neal received his UFC contract.

Fans can watch UFC 240 on ESPN+ starting at 9 p.m.

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