It takes a lot to get Pat Barry down. The affable heavyweight is one of the cheeriest, most colorful characters under the UFC banner, and nine times out of ten, he's ecstatic to learn his next assignment. But when UFC matchmaker Joe Silva called with an opportunity to fight Dec. 7, 2013 in Australia at UFC Fight Night 33, well, let's just say Barry wasn't particularly thrilled.
"When I first signed to the UFC, I made two small requests," Barry said half-jokingly on a recent episode of The MMA Hour.
"I said look, I'm going to make two small requests and I'm going to preface that with an awesome statement of I'll fight anybody you want me to, anytime you want me to, it doesn't matter. It could be a short notice (fight). I'll show up the day of; it doesn't matter, I'm always ready, I'm never going to say no. But I would like to have two requests. That's all.
"One, I would like to never, ever, ever fight in Australia. That was the number one, that was first. I told Joe Silva, can I please never fight in Australia ever. I don't ever want to fight in Australia unless you send me a boat ticket or something like that, that leaves six months in advance to get there. I don't want to fight in Australia, and I never want to fight in Denver, Colo. And now I'm fighting in Australia and I'm living in Denver, Colo."
A laughing Barry was quick to add, it's not that he has anything against Australians. It's just that "HD" already isn't especially fond of airplanes, and when he looks at an itinerary that says ‘departing Sunday afternoon' and ‘landing Tuesday afternoon,' that's a bit much. Plus, the extra $3,222 plane ticket and $500 visa he shelled out for a second cornerman didn't help.
Nonetheless, Barry was all smiles as he readied for his bout against Soa Palelei, which takes place in Brisbane, Australia this upcoming Saturday. While Palelei didn't win over many fans with his uninspiring victory over Nikita Krylov in his last fight, the fact that he did so with a fractured rib was more than enough to gain Barry's respect.
"I'd understand if people were sitting there going, whew, man, he gets tired really quick. They're kind of sloppy, it's a big man fight," Barry said of Palelei's recent performance. "Because Soa's huge, he's humongous man. Alright, maybe he got tired and they couldn't really finish each other, and then at the end it finally happened.
"(But) finding out after that he did the entire fight with damaged ribs, then oh no, you're amazing. You did tremendous then. Then that performance which was lackluster automatically gets jumped up to, oh damn. Because I've had rib injuries before, man. One, not only is hard to punch and kick, it's hard to breathe. So how you can move around and be active and whatnot with that kind of injury, I have no idea. That's tough, man."
For Barry, like Palelei, UFC Fight Night 33 presents a vital opportunity to gain back momentum after a disappointing last outing. Barry is thus far 5-6 in his UFC career, and for the most part, he's alternated wins and loses to reach that mark. But his most recent loss, a semi-controversial 59-second TKO at the hands of Shawn Jordan, stung more so than the others.
Depending on who you ask, Jordan's finishing salvo began with either a punch, or a poke in the eye which referee Jerin Valel failed to acknowledge. Afterward Barry's left eye was visibly damaged, and the defeated heavyweight was left to fume about how the situation played out.
"Almost every fight, guaranteed, I get either a finger in the eye at some point in time or a groin shot, a low blow," Barry said.
"When I get hit in the groin, in my testicles, I can generally continue going. I can at least fake my way through that. But I, like most fighters, would say, we don't really know how to react to [when] you get a finger in the eye.
"No one knows the proper (protocol). What's the proper protocol to getting that done?"
Barry took ownership of his loss in the immediate aftermath of the event, though even five months after the fact, he's still bothered by the familiarity of Jordan's finishing sequence.
"You know what, it's not the gloves," Barry said. "I know I'll get a lot of flak for that -- it's not the gloves. We're high level professionals. We are the highest level professionals that you can get. Anybody who throws three groin shots (or eyepokes) in one fight, it's not the gloves, it's not the rules. We have open fingered gloves. If you throw a punch [open handed], that's no good.
"Everybody knows what they're doing," Barry continued.
"But, his hands should've never been that close to my face anyway. That's my fault. He threw a punch, it landed. My bad. His hands should've never gotten that close to me anyway. That's my fault. I take full responsibility for that."
Regardless of how things played out in the past, Barry has now put it behind him to focus on the present -- which, at the moment, is teeming with exciting developments.
Of course, first up there's his fight against Palelei, which could serve as an early holiday gift if Barry's lose one/win one history lives up to its billing. Then there's Mishka, the recently adopted puppy with whom Barry and girlfriend Rose Namajunas are admittedly infatuated.
But finally there's the business of the UFC's newest weight class, which will soon thrust a slew of 115-pound women straight into the spotlight. In Barry's mind, there's little doubt about what the future holds for Namajunas, a 21-year-old who's considered to be one of the strawweight division's rising prospects.
"Her phone instantly exploded (the day of the announcement), and it hasn't been on since," Barry said.
"How far away do I think Rose is from being in there? I think Rose is talented enough, good enough, mean enough, all-around packaged enough to be there a year ago. Pat said it. A year ago. And this isn't, she's my chick, man, and I think she's the best. She's that dangerous. If the right Rose wakes up that morning, there are many males out there that don't stand a chance."