“We all know that he can get hit. But who’s really been hitting him? I punch and kick a little bit different, at a different pace, a different beat, and with a different accuracy. So it’s really hard to prepare for the striking that I’m bringing."
2010 was shaping up to be the best year of Pat Barry’s life. He had a fight scheduled with one of his idols, Mirko Cro Cop, and with a win he would propel himself up the crowded heavyweight ranks in the UFC, add the word “contender” to his name, and probably get another big fight before the year ended.
It didn’t work out quite like that.
Barry lost to Cro Cop at UFC 115 in June, but more devastating than the defeat were the broken hand and foot he suffered during the nearly three round bout, injuries which put him on the shelf for the rest of the year.
He returns to active duty this Saturday night in a Fight For The Troops 2 bout against fellow slugger Joey Beltran, and it’s the perfect time to ask him about 2011 and how he hopes it turns out. He doesn’t hesitate in his response to the question.
“By the end of 2011, Anthony Pettis will be the UFC lightweight champion, Dan Downes goes undefeated in two fights in the UFC, and I get at least two submission wins.”
In a ‘me, me, me’ world, that answer is telling, as Barry’s instinct is to put his teammates - lightweight contender Pettis and 155-pound prospect Downes – first. It’s no accident either, but it’s not a trait Barry takes credit for.
“That’s one hundred percent from my mother,” said Barry of his mom, Laverne Barry Fleming. “That is my mother’s trait and her entire life was dedicated to just giving. My father also, but I definitely get this from my mother. She just gives to the world. We were raised that if you give to the world, the world will give back to you. She would roll over in the mud just to make sure you wouldn’t have to walk in it. Her entire life, she’s just taken care of everybody.”
And the heavyweight dubbed “HD” is doing his job to pay it forward in Milwaukee’s Roufusport Academy. It’s a tight-knit crew in the Midwest gym, and while lead trainer Duke Roufus is the father or uncle figure, Barry can definitely be described as the big brother. So when Pettis and Downes had career-defining wins over Ben Henderson and Tiequan Zhang in last December’s final WEC show in December, no one was prouder than their big bro.
“You compare it to a parent watching their kid succeed at something that they really tried hard to do,” said Barry. “I am not his parent, but being a figure in the gym who’s there like a part-mentor, we all grow from each other and learn from each other. It’s just that I’ve got a little bit more life than they do, so they’re able to grow from me and I’m able to pass on mature adult things and knowledge here and there. And to watch them grow as athletes, while watching them grow and succeed as a man, it makes you feel good to know that you were a part of that.”
December 16th was a good night for the team, but the final result doesn’t make getting through the previous minute and rounds any easier to watch for Barry.
“It’s always gonna be harder to watch your teammates fight than it is to fight yourself,” he said. “It’s like a parent with a kid who fell into a bear cage and you’re on the outside and you can’t get in and help. If you care for your teammates, you don’t want them to get hit or to feel pain or the anguish of losing. If I could, I would take that pain out of your heart and absorb it just so you could have a nice life. That’s the role of anybody who cares about anybody. You don’t want harm to come to anybody you care about.”
The feeling is mutual from Barry’s younger teammates, so it must have been tough for them to watch the 31-year old New Orleans native come up short in the biggest fight of career last June, especially since there were extenuating circumstances (the hand and foot injuries) that kept him from fighting his best. But one thing that Barry wants to make clear is that his high level of respect for the former PRIDE star ended as soon as the bell rang that night in Vancouver.
“That fight was a fight just like anyone else,” he said. “It didn’t matter that he was the legendary Cro Cop with all these different highlights. The fight was just like fighting any other man until I was standing there with only one hand and still had 12 minutes left of fighting to go. (Laughs) Then all of a sudden he became the superhuman, highlight reel Cro Cop who I was just waiting to kick me in the head.”
That kick never came, and despite scoring two early knockdowns, Barry wound up on the wrong end of a rear naked choke at 4:30 of the final round. The loss, which dropped his pro MMA record to 5-2, hurt, but he was able to gleam some positives from it.
“As long as I was able to test myself against a guy like that, that was awesome,” he said. “I was given the opportunity to put myself to the test against a guy with that type of status, that type of resume. And I think that was great.”
But now with the injuries behind him and Joey Beltran in front of him, it’s back to business, and if there’s one thing ‘The Mexicutioner’ does, it’s get down to business. Barry’s ready for what should be an all-out assault from the Californian, and you would think that his more technical attack should easily nullify Beltran’s brawling style, but as he points out, sometimes it’s more difficult fighting someone unorthodox than one that will follow a 1-2 with a clean up left hook.
“It’s definitely a lot harder to fight a guy who is a brawler who has no pattern,” explains Barry, a former K-1 kickboxer. “If you had a choice to fight Ernesto Hoost or Bob Sapp, you would definitely choose Bob Sapp if you’re a technical striker the way I am. My hardest fights are against guys like Joey Beltran and Tim Hague, who just come at you flailing. There are no patterns to pick up on and they’re never where they’re supposed to be when they’re supposed to be there. Because it’s such an odd style and there’s no real technique to it, they just come at you like a zombie, and their body parts aren’t where they’re supposed to be, and that’s how myself and a lot of people end up getting hurt. We end up hurting ourselves because we might throw punches and kicks where we’re supposed to, but the wrong body part is always there.”
Barry is on another level when it comes to striking though, with his technique and power among the best in the heavyweight division. In response, Beltran owns a world-class chin, begging the question, who will break first on Saturday?
“He’s taken a lot of punches and a lot of kicks from a lot of big guys, so his ability to take a punch and to take a kick is not unknown,” said Barry of Beltran. “We all know that he can get hit. But who’s really been hitting him? I punch and kick a little bit different, at a different pace, a different beat, and with a different accuracy. So it’s really hard to prepare for the striking that I’m bringing. But I’ve already found out that if I punch or kick you, I tend to break myself, so if that happened on Cro Cop’s face, then I’m expecting to come out with a body cast after the Beltran fight. (Laughs) That guy can take a hit and he doesn’t seem to ever fall down or back up, he just keeps walking forward. He’s not the fastest guy in the world, but he just doesn’t seem to stop.”
It’s another sharp dose of honesty from the Big Easy big man, and a refreshing one at that. Maybe that’s why if you asked hardcore fight fans who their favorite heavyweight fighter is, win or lose, Pat Barry’s going to rank pretty high. Why? It’s not because of knockout power that can turn your lights out with one kick or punch, but because he’s the genuine article.
“Deep down inside, something can tell you when someone is lying or acting,” he said. “You can tell that you’re watching a movie, versus in real life, when someone is pouring their heart out to you, you can feel that and sense that. Like going to an opera, there are women and men who stand on stage and they sing and they can command tears from the crowd watching. I never understood that growing up as a kid. How can people go to an opera and watch someone singing and start crying – that just doesn’t make sense. Or you can listen to someone who plays the trumpet or plays the saxophone in a way that can actually pull tears out of your head. I think that it’s definitely my honesty and my realism that connects to people because I’m not a superhuman. I’m just like everybody else. I think people can relate to me and it makes them feel special because if that guy over there can do this, then I can do it too because he goes what we go through every day and he sounds very familiar to me. I’m your average, everyday guy. I just happen to have an odd job.”