It was the moment that Marc-Andre Barriault had been waiting for.
As the French-Canadian closed out the show against Oscar Piechota, he raised his arms in the air and let out a yell over a year in the making. He finally earned his first UFC victory, and he did it in style.
But the bout would be turned to a no contest after Barriault tested positive for a banned substance from USADA. A thorough investigation revealed that there was no evidence of intentional use of the substance and Barriault was reinstated to fight in January.
It was a frustrating moment for the 31-year-old, who has entered the Octagon four times without a victory. He makes the walk on Saturday with more motivation than ever, and he’s determined to make up for lost time.
“My last fight, I did what I had to do at that time. I showcased all my skills and the fighter I am and also all the tools that I have to win a UFC fight,” Barriault told UFC.com. “After that, I just focused on beating this guy and doing it for the right reasons. I made a lot of improvements of my mental skills to be the guy that I want to be.”
The guy that Barriault wants to be is the guy who overwhelmed Piechota; the guy who brings big power and the guy that finishes fights.
The stretch that “Powerbar” spent waiting for a fight provided him with time to work on specific components of his game. He identified weaknesses and strengths and, most importantly to the Quebec native, he fine-tuned the mental aspect of his game.
“I never stopped working out and I worked a lot on my mental aspect and kept going on my body. I just focused my time on controlling what I could control, and I did a lot of stuff by myself,” Barriault said. “I feel very excited to be here. Since the last time I’ve made a lot of improvements. This Saturday I’m going to show them what I’ve learned and I’m here for myself and ready to just let it go.”
“Letting it go” is a pillar of Barriault’s game. He is at his best when he’s having fun, and he’s most dangerous when he isn’t overthinking the little things. That will be his main object at UFC 260 when he faces Abu Azaitar on Saturday.
Azaitar won his UFC debut way back in July 2018 and has since been out of action. Barriault believes that Azaitar’s time away from the cage could be an advantage for him. But he also is expecting Azaitar to come out with a sense of urgency.
"I showcased all my skills, the fighter I am and also all the tools that I have to win a UFC fight."— UFC News (@UFCNews) March 24, 2021
Marc-Andre @PowerBarriault is excited to get back into the Octagon and mix it up with Abu Azaitar 🔊⬆️
Order #UFC260 ➡️: https://t.co/LqL6GVNxPI pic.twitter.com/lr4btEBmhv
“I think the fact that he didn’t fight for almost two or three years, he might have some ring rust. I visualize the fight starting with him rushing me just to impose the rhythm because he will be stressed or whatever, but I’m the better man here, so I just want to find the calm in the chaos, and I’ll do that,” Barriault said of his opponent. “I really think that the matchup against Abu Azaitar is the right matchup for me at this time. He is a powerful brawler; he likes to fight, and he marches forward. I just want to be myself and impose the rhythm and just be composed and patient and let everything loose to get the job done.”
The ups and downs of the job have shaped Barriault into a different fighter and he is confident that those experiences will give him the advantage against Azaitar.
“My mindset will be my biggest strength. I’m already a powerful guy, I can take some shots and I can give some shots,” Barriault said. “I’m just going to go in there and show him what kind of animal I am.”