Rushing back felt like the right thing for Bryan Barberena.
The UFC welterweight didn’t want to waste any time coming back from back surgery, but the universe had other plans. Before he knew it, Barberena saw his goal of competing just a few months after his UFC Greenville fight with Randy Brown in June 2019 come and go and, in the blink of an eye, the UFC veteran had been on the sidelines for over a year.
The time away from the Octagon wasn’t easy for the father of three, but with his kids by his side it wasn’t difficult for him to find the motivation to come back better than ever.
“The hardest part of the comeback was the start. I was going crazy and pacing around the house doing things I wasn’t supposed to do. I had to admit to myself that I needed to step back and do the right things. I was super overweight; I was getting gassed out and battling my own mind telling me to give up and enjoy family time,” Barberena told UFC.com. “But then I saw my kids working out beside me and I knew I wanted to come back for me and chase this dream, but more importantly I wanted to show my kids that no matter how far down you get, you can get back and be successful.”
The motivation of teaching his children the importance of resiliency and hard work has pushed Barberena into the best shape of his life. That emotional fuel, combined with the recovery from his back injury, have the 31-year-old excited to show off a new and improved “Bam Bam”.
“The overall work that comes with recovery made my back stronger, my core stronger and my base stronger. There were no injury limitations with this camp after all the recovery, so we ran wide open with it,” Barberena said. “I’m leaner than I’ve ever been and I’m in the best mental space of my career. I’m ready to go.”
Barberena (14-7) will make his 11th walk to the Octagon on Saturday when he faces Anthony Ivy (8-3) at UFC Vegas 10. It’s an important fight for Barberena, who looks to get back on track after suffering the first back-to-back losses of his career. Barberena has consistently fought some of the division’s toughest names during his UFC tenure, competing against the likes of Vicente Luque, Jake Ellenberger, Leon Edwards and Colby Covington. And while Ivy, who lost his short notice UFC debut in June, doesn’t have the same level of experience as his past opponents, that doesn’t mean Barberena will underestimate him for a second.
“People may look at Ivy and think something negative about the matchup since he lost his debut, but this is the UFC, and even though they might think he’s someone I’m supposed to smoke, I’m not looking at this fight like that at all,” Barberena said. “He is dangerous and he’s a game opponent. It’s my job to run through him, make a statement and start my true run to the top of the division.”
“I’ve given guys at the top of the division a lot of trouble and I’ve come close to beating a lot of those guys, but I’ve come up just short. Right now, with the time off and my recovery, now is the time. The run starts for me on Saturday.”
Watch Barberena make his comeback against Ivy on Saturday at UFC Vegas 10, which begins at 6pm/3pm ETPT on ESPN+.