“I’ve always been a small heavyweight and when you walk into weigh-ins and see the biggest, ugliest, scariest looking guys, that’s usually who I’m fighting that night.”
If you’re breaking down Saturday’s UFC Fight For The Troops 2 bout between Joey Beltran and Pat Barry, you assume that neither heavyweight will have to look too far to find the other once the bell rings. It’s no secret, they like to stand and trade as opposed to taking the fight to the mat.
On the canvas, things get a little more complicated. Both of Barry’s mixed martial arts losses have come via submission. Beltran, who has one submission defeat of his own, actually has a blue belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Does that mean that if the opportunity presents itself, he’ll look to try his luck with Barry on the ground?
“I would like to say that I’d take him down and use my jiu-jitsu, but when the fight starts happening, you tend to go where your instincts are, and my instincts are always to scrap,” said Beltran. “The last fight (against Matt Mitrione), you look at round one and I easily got the takedown and I probably should have taken Matt down again. It would have made it more of a boring fight, but it probably would have been a lot easier to win. But when it starts happening, you just go with what you know, and fighting is all I know how to do. That’s what I’m good at and that’s what got me to the big dance, and I don’t plan on changing now.”
That statement is music to the ears of fight fans who have adopted “The Mexicutioner” as one of their favorites due to his tendency to bite down on his mouthpiece and start swinging as soon as he’s called to battle, chin tucking optional. In 2010, the vet of nearly four years in pro MMA broke down the door to the next level of competition, stopping UFC vet Houston Alexander in January before entering the Octagon himself and defeating Rolles Gracie and Tim Hague before a close decision loss to Matt Mitrione in a UFC 119 bout awarded Fight of the Night honors. It was a stellar year to say the least, but the soft-spoken Carlsbad, California product refuses to get overrun by the hype that goes with being a prospect in one of the UFC’s glamour divisions.
“I just stay grounded, and I know that regardless of how many people are watching and how many interviews you do before the fight, and how much hype is built around the fight, at the end of the night, you’re gonna have to be locked in a cage with another man and go to work,” he said. “So if you’re not ready to do that, it’s gonna be pretty bad for you. (Laughs) And on top of that, you have 20,000 people watching live, and last time millions watching on TV. So you’d better be ready to fight.”
That’s one thing Beltran has down pat, and despite facing a technically superior striker in Barry, the 29-year old’s brawling attack may just be unorthodox enough to give the former K-1 kickboxer some problems this Saturday in Texas.
“It definitely falls into that old cliché, box the brawler and brawl the boxer, and that’s definitely what I’m gonna try to do,” said Beltran. “If I got complacent with who I’m fighting, and for some reason decide to get into a technical match with Pat Barry, I’m sure I’m gonna get eaten up. I have to remember who I am and stay true to myself and I should be all right.”
Yet despite taking a ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ approach to his fight game, in the gym, Beltran used the Mitrione fight as a motivating tool to reassess what he was doing in his pre-fight preparation.
“I went through a change of heart and really analyzed a lot of things, which you tend to do after taking a loss,” he said. “It’s why sometimes a loss is the best thing that can happen to you in MMA. After losing I really sat back and I already knew I was training hard, but it made me question if I was doing all the right things. For the most part I learned that there was still a little bit more that could have been done and I feel that I’ve taken the necessary steps, and even pulled a little back in training because I think I was overtraining a little bit. I always did my own thing and went to like four or five different gyms per camp, getting a little bit from here and a little bit from there. This camp I simplified things and turned up the intensity.”
An even more intense Beltran is a scary thought for future opponents, but then again, facing someone like Barry, who once likened a taste of his leg kicks to stepping on a land mine, is pretty intimidating as well. But Beltran’s healthy dose of respect for his foe doesn’t translate into fear – Barry’s just another big guy trying to take his head off.
“I’ve always been a small heavyweight and when you walk into weigh-ins and see the biggest, ugliest, scariest looking guys, that’s usually who I’m fighting that night,” laughs Beltran, who at 6-1 is actually two inches taller than Barry. “Getting hit by large people that hit really hard is nothing new to me. He can throw his leg kicks and we’ll see what happens.”
If it seems like Saturday’s fight is just another night at the office for Beltran, it is, so consequently the same person who walked into Las Vegas nearly a year ago as a heavy underdog against Rolles Gracie is the same one going to Texas to face Barry. It’s just business.
“I’m just doing what I’m supposed to be doing,” he said. “I’m a professional fighter, I have the trust of my family, I’m not playing around all day with my friends, I’m training, and when I go to fight every few months it’s to make money to pay the bills. I’ve always had that approach and I haven’t really gotten caught up in the hype of ‘oh, you’re a UFC fighter.’ It’s funny to me that it seems everybody around me has more so than I. I stressed out just as much fighting in small Indian casinos or cages thrown up in nightclubs overnight as I do fighting in the UFC now. The fights mean that much to me, and it’s always been that I’m fighting for my life, regardless of how many people are watching.”
They will be watching though, as a Joey Beltran fight means that for 15 minutes or less, you will be entertained. But what about the future? Is there more in store? He’s positive that there is.
“I really have the outlook that I’m in the UFC, I’m the only person in my family in the UFC, the only person in my city, the only person among my friends,” he said. “So I’m the only person I know who has an opportunity to become the UFC heavyweight champion of the world. I genuinely have the opportunity to do that; it may not be this fight, but I’m here. So if I don’t approach every fight and every opportunity I get to fight in the Octagon with that mindset, then I’m wasting my time and wasting the time of everybody else around me. So I’m going out there to fight Pat Barry thinking it’s one step to getting the title, and that’s the outlook I have for 2011 and from now on. Every fight, I’m inching my way to that title.”