J.O: First of all, can you explain for everyone at home the best thing about your hometown of Fruitvale, B.C.?
Gavin Neil: The best thing? Uh, well, it's pretty small. There's only about 2000 people, so you kinda know everyone. It's part of a whole, larger area; it's kinda like a suburb of Trail, but there's not really a lot to do in Trail. I mean that's kinda why I got into fighting in the first place.
J.O.: (Laughs) Okay, fair enough. At what age did you first get into martial arts and what were the first disciplines you studied?
Gavin Neil: I was fifteen years old when I started thai boxing in Trail under a gym called Pride Gym. I was introduced to grappling there and MMA through another friend who trained there. It wasn't anything serious, but that's also where I got my first taste of jiu-jitsu and stuff. One of the reasons for it is that I was about 230lbs. when I was 14-years-old. I just needed to get into shape, so I started doing all that. When I got down to about 190lbs., I started competing.
J.O.: Started competing as an amateur?
Gavin Neil: I started in amateur kickboxing, but, basically, amateur back then meant they'd take a minute off the time and that's about it.
J.O.: So, to begin your pro career from November 2007 to December 2008, a space of thirteen months, you fought six times for Alberta's respected MFC promotion, going an impressive 5-1, is that all correct?
Gavin Neil: Yeah, 5-1 in the MFC and that was my first experience as a pro.
J.O.: That's quite a promotion to start out with...
Gavin Neil: Yeah, [Adam] Zugec (Zuma) really kinda set that up. I think it had something to do with the fact that I was the amateur thai boxing champion before. So I had a bit of a reputation, I guess, already. That was good enough to get me on the under card.
J.O.: Then you went 5-1, which is a very decent record, with four finishes even.
Gavin Neil: Yeah, it's too bad it wasn't 6-0, but, you know, live and learn.
J.O.: Yeah. When the King Of The Cage's (KOTC) lightweight title fight, set for this Friday in Nanaimo, was announced it featured Darcy James and Adam Gabel, neither of whom will appear on the card. Instead, you will face Charlie Zak for the belt. Can you explain a bit about how some of this came to pass?
Gavin Neil: I'm not exactly sure why James can't go. I think I heard something about him breaking a rib or something. Then with Gabel, he's been having to personal troubles from what I understand. You know, he just wasn't able to concentrate. So, I think he made the right decision. He just wasn't able to train and he was quite a bit overweight and he made the decision to say, you know, I'm not ready. Basically he told our coach and the guy who runs KOTC in Nanaimo, John Cooper, that he wasn't ready so they gave it to me. I was already in shape and walking around at about 165lbs. So, I was like, "yeah, why not?" It was a week out and a fairly major title, so I decided to go for it.
J.O.: Yeah, definitely. So, I hear you're out here completing your university degree. Do you care to share what you're studying?
Gavin Neil: Sure, I have one more year and I'm getting a major in History with a minor in Sociology.
J.O.: Okay, sounds good. I'm a UVic alumnus myself.
Gavin Neil: It's a great school
J.O.: Yeah, it really is. When I spoke to your Zuma teammate Sarah Kaufman a while back we discussed what it is that makes her a self-professed geek. In her case it was all about puzzles. According to my sources, you describe yourself similarly. Care to explain?
Gavin Neil: Yeah, I'm one of those guys who's watched Star Trek one too many times and I used to have quite the Batman collection. I'm pretty sure the reason I got into martial arts was Street Fighter. I also have a Nintendo belt buckle, so that's usually a good sign that you're a nerd. I would say that I'm a nerd not a geek if there's a difference.
J.O.: I think there's a difference there, for sure, and, as an occasionally esoteric fellow myself, I can appreciate Zuma's openness policy towards all forms of geekery. Can I assume that nerdy subjects are discussed there regularly?
Gavin Neil: Oh yeah, Zugec and I have had full-blown arguments about Star Trek.
J.O.: You've already answered some of my questions, but, if you'll agree to it, I would like to administer a geek reflex test. I'll offer two options and you can tell me which you prefer. For example, if I said "Spider-Man or Batman" you'd tell me which is superior, but everyone knows that's Batman so it's kind of an easy one.
Gavin Neil: True.
J.O.: Okay, so what do you think? Are you ready? Also, be advised that "neither" is always an acceptable answer.
Gavin Neil: Alright.
J.O.: Here we go, Mac or PC?
Gavin Neil: Ohhh...I'm not one of those guys that are too loyal to either one. I have a Mac, but I should stand up for some of my hugely nerdy friends that say PC's are better because they're kinda right. So, how about neither.
J.O.: That's fair and very diplomatic. Simpsons or South Park?
Gavin Neil: South Park.
J.O.: Star Wars or Lord of the Rings?
Gavin Neil: Whoa...Star Wars.
J.O.: Street Fighter or Mortal Combat?
Gavin Neil: Street Fighter.
J.O.: Yeah, see, I knew that one because you already said you're a fan. Anyway, Final Fantasy or Legend of Zelda?
Gavin Neil: That's a good one, but it depends on the Final Fantasy. You have to watch out with that one, you have to be specific.
J.O.: I suppose. How about Final Fantasy IV or Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past?
Gavin Neil: Uh..Legend of Zelda.
J.O.: Well met, I have to agree. Finally, Monty Python or Kids In The Hall?
Gavin Neil: Oh..I like both.
J.O.: Hmmm... the opposite of neither?
Gavin Neil: Well, you have to give Monty Python a slight edge because sometimes Kids In The Hall was just stupid.
J.O.: Fair enough, Monty Python will probably stand the test of time a little bit better, too. Twenty years from now you'll be looked back on as correct, I assume. Alright, that's all I have for you today Gavin. I wish you tons of luck in your title fight and we'll see you on Friday.
Gavin Neil: Alright, man. Take it easy.
J.O.: Alright, later.
King of the Cage Uprising II
Friday March 12th, 2010
Frank Crane Arena
Tickets on sale online @ http://vimma.ca and at the door!