People keep telling Pat Barry
he needs to get over the Joey Beltran
fight. You won the decision, they say. So what if you didn't knock him out? A victory is a victory. Take it and move on.
Barry hears them, and he knows they're right. But after landing so many of his trademark kicks to Beltran's legs and head throughout their three-round affair at the UFC's second 'Fight for the Troops' event in January, Barry is still shaken by his inability to stop, or even seriously damage Beltran with what he thought were fight-ending strikes.
"I can't let it go," Barry told MMA Fighting. "I'm baffled. That's a riddle I can't solve. Out of the hundreds of kickboxing fights I've had and all the MMA fights I've done, I've never seen that. I'm shocked. It makes no sense, and I can't figure it out. I've never kicked a heavybag that many times, and the guy was still walking. No bruises, no swelling, nothing. [He was] back in the gym on Monday doing squats and getting kicked by other people."
At the same time, it's not as if Barry couldn't have seen this coming. In seventeen pro MMA bouts Beltran has never been knocked out, and before this fight Barry himself referred to Beltran as "a zombie" because of his ability to march relentlessly forward through anything opponents throw at him.
That's fine for other people, Barry said, but they don't have his finishing power. He had yet to go the distance in an MMA fight when he stepped in against Beltran, and he was more than a little bit proud of his ability to put people away. That was before. Now, Barry said, he's not so sure.
"[It] made me rethink every interview I've ever done where I'm like, 'If I punch you it's like getting shot, and kicking is like a grenade.' Nope. Apparently not. Standing across from Joey Beltran will make you doubt yourself."
In fact, he said, lately he's started to wonder if it was only the three-round limit that saved him.
"If this was UFC 1, with no time limit, Joey Beltran, "The Mexecutioner," would be the champion of the universe," Barry said. "Joey Beltran will kick your a-- in 57 minutes."
But even if Barry was more shook up by the decision win than most fighters are by a loss, it still goes down as a victory on paper, and his UFC career marches forward. Next up, he faces longtime UFC heavyweight Cheick Kongo
at the UFC Live
event on Versus in June – a fight he said he liked more in theory than in reality.
"[UFC matchmaker] Joe Silva called me real cool and casual. We were talking and he was like, 'So what do you think of Cheick Kongo?' I was like, 'Man, I don't care about Cheick Kongo. He ain't been performing. He ain't been doing his thing.' Then he was like, 'Okay good, you're going to fight him on [June] 26.' That's when I felt like, oh sh-t. Aw, man. I need more time."
Of course, Barry said, that would have been his initial reaction to any fight offer. He knew he had more than enough time to prepare, but when the reality of the bout is staring you in the face, a part of you will do anything to put it off just a little while longer.
Most fighters won't admit that, but Barry has always been refreshingly honest about his own inner conflicts in the fight game, such as when he admitted that the days before his fight with Beltran were days when fighting for a living suddenly seemed "very stupid."
In Kongo, Barry faces a taller fighter who shares his love of stand-up fighting, but who also has been known to bend the rules on occasion. Lately he's seemed unable to get through a fight without landing at least one strike to his opponent's groin, but Barry isn't too worried about that.
"He has been kneeing a lot of guys in the groin, a lot of testicle shots and all that. But the upside to that for me is, I only have one and it's really little," Barry said. "It hasn't even dropped yet, so there."
If you haven't already noticed, humor is Barry's response to just about every situation. From dealing with a physical specimen like Kongo, who Barry praises for having "the most beautiful chest muscles on earth," to coping with past disappointments like his loss to Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic
, Barry rarely encounters a situation he can't joke about.
To some people, it might make him seem like he's not completely serious about his career. But that's far from the case, Barry said. It's just that he happens to believe you can be a fierce competitor while also being a fun, gregarious person.
"Regardless of what anybody out there believes about me and, uh, previous fights, nobody wants to lose. Nobody wants to lose ever. But do I want to be remembered as the guy who kicked people in the neck and just destroyed everybody? That'd be kind of cool, but it's not the main thing I want people to remember.
"I want to be remembered as, Pat Barry was a good guy who was able to influence me in some way, whether he taught me a jab or taught me never to lock my keys in my car, like I just did today. I want to be able to help people in some way. From my own life experiences. If I can just pass on a bit of knowledge that will help someone else out later in life, that's what I want to be remembered for more than anything else."
And yeah, the whole keys locked in the car thing? That's it's own funny story. But only ask him about it if you've got some time on your hands.