When Pat Barry
saw his coach's face appear in front of him, that's when he knew the fight was over.
He didn't know how that face had gotten there, inches from his own, inside the cage. All he knew was that one moment he was attacking Cheick Kongo
in full-scale beast mode, and the next they were letting the coaches in the cage. It must be all over. Done.
The fact that he couldn't remember exactly how it had ended, that didn't bother him. Not at first.
"I was hitting [Kongo] and then all of a sudden I opened my eyes and I thought I won," Barry said. "That was the first thing out of my mouth was, 'Yo, we got him.'"
At the time, he had no idea that he was saying it from flat on his back, or that just seconds earlier he'd been on the business end of one of the greatest come-from-behind knockouts in MMA history
His coach, Marty Morgan, had to try and explain it to him -- and the news wasn't easy for Barry to comprehend. How could he be the one who'd gotten knocked out, when the last thing he remembered was knocking Kongo from one end of the cage to the other? It seemed impossible.
"I also didn't know I was lying on my back," Barry said. "I thought I was standing face-to-face with him. So when the doctor said, 'Can you try to sit up for me?' I looked at him like, how am I going to sit up when I'm already standing? That doesn't even make sense. You're the worst doctor in the world. You should be fired."
To Barry, none of it made sense. In nine MMA bouts and scores of kickboxing matches, he'd never suffered a knockout. He'd delivered plenty, but he had no idea what it felt like to be on the other side of it.
And truthfully, he said, he spent most of his career in fear of finding out.
"I was like, this is what this feels like? First, I was having this little moment, almost like when you're a kid and you finally get on that scary rollercoaster, like the Texas Giant that you've been avoiding for years and years. Then you finally get on and you realize it's not that bad. Guess what, you don't die when you get on it. ... I got knocked out, but I'm still alive. I can get up, walk around, still function. I'm okay. It's not as bad as I thought."
At least, physically it wasn't so bad. But in a few short seconds Barry had gone from almost winning to definitely losing, and that stung. It stung even more when he realized how close the fight had been to being stopped. A hard shot had crumpled Kongo to his knees, and referee Dan Miragliotta had seemed right on the verge of stepping in to wave it off.
"He wasn't pretty much out," said Barry. "He was out
out. But I will say this, and I come from a few different viewpoints, but from my personal standpoint, it sucks. It sucks financially. It sucks for my record. It sucks emotionally and mentally. I lost. I got knocked out. Not only did I lose, I lost my third MMA fight to a guy who was knocked out."
Then again, Barry said, a part of him appreciates just what an amazing finish it was. His fight with Kongo will be remembered for years to come -- the highlight has already spread far and wide on the internet -- all because of the nature of the comeback.
A lot of guys might find that to be of little consolation, but not Barry.
"From a fan point of view, there could have been no better outcome to that fight. That was the best possible end to that fight that could have happened. If I would have just kept going and knocked him out, it would have been awesome for me financially and for my record. And yeah, it would have been awesome for the crowd, but it would have been nowhere near as exciting as the way it ended. That was the best ending to that fight possible.
"If Dan Miragliotta would have stopped it, he would have robbed Cheick Kongo of one of the best comebacks in UFC
history," Barry said. "And if he would have stopped it, he would have robbed the fans of one of the most exciting endings in the history of the UFC. If he would have stopped that fight, with the way it turned out, it would have been a terrible injustice. We would have all missed one of the greatest 20 seconds in MMA ever."
Of course, anybody who saw the pained look on Barry's face as Kongo was pronounced the winner knows that the loss didn't settle on him easily. It brought his UFC record to a mediocre 3-3, and it cost him the win bonus that he'd practically held in his hand moments earlier.
After all that, Barry wasn't feeling so great about things. Not until UFC president Dana White covered up his own microphone at the post-fight press conference and leaned over to tell Barry that he'd never seen him look better in the Octagon. That he'd just had the best fight of his MMA career. That, regardless of the loss, this was what everyone had been waiting to see out of him.
Which wasn't exactly what Barry had been expecting to hear from his boss after getting knocked out on live TV. But still, he had to admit, it helped.
"Dana White telling me that he thought my best performance was me getting knocked out, you know, I hear what he's really saying. He likes that level of aggression. Everybody's been waiting to see it. Like, 'Come on, man. You're the nicest guy in MMA. Why don't you go out there to kill somebody.' And this, I came out ready for war, and it showed."
You could argue that his aggression cost him dearly. After all, it was as he was charging in on a wounded Kongo that Barry got clipped behind the ear with a right hand. But he doesn't regret that, he said. He did everything more or less right. Kongo punched, Barry blocked. It just so happened that the punch barely slipped past his glove and onto his skull. If it had been a kickboxing match, with the big, padded gloves, he'd have been fine.
"I put up a block for the wrong size glove," Barry mused later. "What can you do?"
But even though he suffered the first knockout loss of his career, Barry said, a part of him feels liberated. The worst-case scenario had just happened. Now he could stop worrying about it.
"Every fight, I can honestly say, a part of me has held back because of that fear. So it was kind of a relief. Like, it finally happened. Now I honestly can't wait to get back into the next one and really go off on someone, because now I don't have to worry about what it's like anymore. I don't have that fear of what's going to happen, because now I already know."
Now all he can think about, Barry said, is the next time. He may have lost the Kongo fight, but he can't think of much he'd do differently if he had it to do all over again. Win or lose, he was still part of a thrilling two-and-a-half-minute show that the MMA world would never forget. That counted for something, didn't it?
"I came into that fight just fearless. Kill or be killed. That's the sacred oath that all kickboxers take. No kickboxer wants to win a decision. I'm going to knock you out or you're going to have to knock me out. I'm coming back with my shield or on it. I'm HD, man. That's what I do. I'm going to win all the way, or I'm going to lose all the way. I'm going to lose better than everybody."