2021 hasn’t been the best year for Antonio Braga Neto as he’s found himself cut from the UFC roster. The 34-year-old Brazilian was dismissed by the UFC after pulling out of his fight against Abdul Razak Alhassan in late August. It was later revealed that Neto had contracted Covid-19 and that was the reason for the withdrawal.
It’s quite a fall from grace for the former World Championship Jiu-Jitsu gold medallist and Pan American Championship winner, who stormed into the UFC, forcing a submission from Anthony Smith by kneebar back in 2015.
However, Neto has been far from active in recent years. His last bout in the UFC came in 2017, and since that defeat to Trevin Niles, he’s twice withdrawn from fights, before the latest event was canceled.
The first was back in August 2018, and latterly, he opted out of a fight against Deron Winn in December 2020. So whilst inactivity is likely to have caused his removal from the roster, some may say it’s a little harsh to do it following a positive Covid test. So, what’s next for Neto?
Away from the Octagon, Neto has been a little busier than people would realize, after talking to poker during his time away from mixed martial arts, however it wasn’t something he had planned.
A report on Bjjee.com said that Neto was due to head back to Brazil to teach in some Jiu-Jitsu seminars ahead of his bout in the UFC against Andrew Sanchez but somehow missed his flight twice, losing $250 in the process. So, having to drive south to the venue he stopped for a break in Sao Paulo and happened upon a poker tournament that could pay up to $80,000 in prize money.
Neto stepped into the tournament and managed to finish fifth, but it wasn’t the first time he’d entered the contest either as he said he’d finished as high as second in a previous visit. So, it turns out that during his time away from fighting that poker had been one his of sources of income, “Poker was a way I found to make money,” Neto said. “That’s what saved me in those years when I haven’t fought.”
But don’t get any ideas if you think you could follow in Neto’s footsteps. Poker.org suggests you should only become a professional when you understand the industry, and shouldn’t quit your day job.
Sadly, Neto had his day job ripped from under him, and as he’s already known on the poker scene, it might be a viable way forward for him now he hasn’t got the UFC to rely on for a paycheck. But while it’s clear that Neto has options beyond fighting, it certainly would be a shame to see one of the best Jiu-Jitsu fighters turn in his Gi just yet, as he still has other choices in mixed martial arts should he wish to continue.
His departure from the UFC means he could explore the option of joining Bellator, ONE Championship, or even the PFL. But for now, Neto is a free agent, and he could follow in the footsteps of Phil Davis, Yoel Romero, and Jiu-Jitsu black belt holder, Ryan Bader, who previously moved from the UFC to Bellator.
So, it remains to be seen if Neto will stay in the fight, but whichever route he decides, we’ll keep you right up to date here at Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu News.