UFC heavyweight Pat Barry will have to figure out where he draws the line when he steps in the cage against one of his idols, Mirko Cro Cop, this Saturday at UFC 115.
"Like the reason why there are guys like me with the level of fighting that I have in MMA nowadays is because of him, is because of him solely," Barry said on a recent media call. "I put the blame on him. He caused the rest of us to evolve. So is it difficult to separate star-struckness like from -- it being a regular fight? ... Absolutely."
Before Barry even began training martial arts, he admired the Croatian kickboxer, hanging a poster of Cro Cop on his wall and considering him one of his top five favorite fighters.
Although Barry has now achieved some form of success as a fighter in the UFC, has grown accustomed to bumping into the world's best on a regular basis, and even favored in the UFC 115 fight, that doesn't mean he would say he's on par with Cro Cop. In fact, he won't even be sure how he'll act around him.
"I mean, who in their right mind, with the amount of experience that I have which is only two years of MMA, can walk up to Cro Cop and just shake his hand like he's a regular guy?" Barry said. "Now, that's something that I'm sure I'm going to have to be able to do, but in my eyes, he's not regular. He's not regular. He's not."
Cro Cop, who was also on the call, wasn't as familiar with Barry, but respects Barry personally for his professional conduct.
"I never met Pat, but definitely, I like the guy, not because he said that I was one of his favorite fighters," Cro Cop said. "I like him because he's very polite and I don't like that tough attitude of fighting at the press conference or spitting on each other. This is just a sport and I like people who act like this is a sport."
Ever since Cro Cop's September 2006 win over Josh Barnett in PRIDE to win the open-weight grand prix, he hasn't been the same. Cro Cop, once one of the most feared heavyweights in the world has appeared to have lost the killer instinct. He's 3-3 in the UFC and has only show briefly, at best, shades of his old self.
Barry said he sees Cro Cop the same dangerous fighter that brutally destroyed opponents from 2002 through 2006 in Japan.
"It's everybody else [getting] better is what has happened," Barry said. So anybody, anybody says that Cro Cop is out of his prime can feel free to fight him for me next Saturday, I don't mind.
"I will defend that till the end. I've had arguments with people who have said, 'Oh, he's not the man to beat.' I've had arguments with people saying that because I don't like that, I don't like hearing that. He is the man, in my eyes; that he's always been. It's just that everybody else has gotten better makes it a little more difficult nowadays."