Coach: Geoff Neal expected to recover after mysterious ailment that caused staphylococcal pneumonia, sepsis

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

UFC welterweight Geoff Neal is resting at home after a serious health scare sent him to the ICU in critical condition.

Neal’s coach, Sayif Saud of Fortis MMA, said his fighter is expected to make a full recovery with the right precautions after the close call that canceled his fight against Neil Magny.

“We’re glad he’s getting back to health and he’s fine,” Saud told MMA Fighting. “We’ll deal with the MMA stuff down the road. That’s just not a priority right now.”

It’s still unclear exactly what happened to Neal, Saud said. Several doctors were unable to diagnose the issue. When the he arrived at an emergency room this past Friday, he was suffering from staphylococcal pneumonia. After being transferred to another hospital, his kidneys started failing, and he was septic. He was immediately put on dialysis and transferred to critical care.

“His blood pressure was so low, the nurse said, ‘We’re going to move him to the ICU right now,’” Saud said. “I was like, ‘Why? She goes, ‘He’s in critical condition.’”

Neal’s temperature got as high as 104 degrees at the peak of the illness. The severity shocked Saud, who’d ordered Neal to go to the hospital this past week after the fighter sent several texts saying he didn’t feel right, and a team doctor diagnosed a fever.

“For a few days, I thought he wasn’t going to make it,” Saud said. “To go from getting a fight, [and] everybody was waiting for him, no one would fight him and Neil Magny stepped up, to go from that to hearing that was just heartbreaking. I was just so worried about him as a person.”

Tests run on Neal at the first hospital were negative for the flu, COVID-19 and other ailments, Saud said. Doctors suspected he might have viral viral meningitis, which can’t be cured with antibiotics, or may have had a weakened immune system from a previous bout with COVID. But because hospitalization wasn’t recommended, he was sent home.

The next day, Neal told Saud he had a pain in his neck and the back of his head and felt “just not normal.” Saud ordered him to another hospital, where he was diagnosed with pneumonia and other lung ailments and transferred.

Saud credits his physician, Dr. Anthony Lyssy, for spotting the pneumonia and sepsis and getting Neal the care he needed. He also said the UFC was “there to support us 100 percent” and received daily calls from UFC execs Hunter Campbell and Sean Shelby.

“The exact words were, ‘Whatever Geoff needs, we got him,’” Saud said.

The coach plans to visit Neal soon; the welterweight was released from the hospital on Sunday and wasn’t allowed to see anyone due to pandemic protocols. Neal posted on Instagram that “life hit me with a check hook” and advised his followers, “stay healthy out there y’all and listen to your body at all times.”

Ex-champ Robbie Lawler will step in for Neal against Magny on Aug. 29. When Neal starts the recovery process, Saud expects his student to excel.

“If there’s anybody who’s going to put into building their body back strong, it’s going to be these guys,” he said. “They work so hard anyway.”

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