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Pat Barry: From Rice to Riches

UFC heavyweight Pat Barry earned a $120,000 bonus on top of his $14,000 fight purse for his victory last month at UFC 104 in Los Angeles. A dramatic increase in wealth and recognition, especially for someone who, a week prior, had nothing to his name, was eating rice and ketchup, and was still hopelessly awaiting acceptance from a former mentor.

Barry improved his MMA record to 5-1 by stopping former training partner Antoni Hardonk in the second round with punches. For Barry, who has been competing since 2002, it took much more than a single training camp and enduring two accidental eye pokes and leg kicks during the fight for his big payday.

"People think it took seven-and-a-half minutes to make all this money," Barry told FanHouse. "It took seven years to make this. This wasn't seven-and-a-half minutes of work. This is seven years straight -- no family, not around my friends, not married, I got no kids. It's just me on the grind, chasing the dream. It took seven years to finally make a payday."

Ketchup and instant rice

The 30-year-old Barry had lived off the bare minimum while chasing the dream. Barry had nothing flashy to show for his efforts. The majority of Barry's money went towards food, rent and training expenses.

"A lot of people, what they don't know is that us fighters, the majority of us don't make the money that the world perceives us to be making. YouTube doesn't pay anything. They think just because you're on YouTube, you're rich. We might make decent money, but what it costs for us to be prepared and to be ready, it really does kill a large portion of what we bring in for fights."

Barry was broke coming into his UFC 104 fight. He had lost his savings from making a loan that was never returned.

"That's what I was told: Never ever, ever loan out any amount of money that you aren't willing to never see again. And I did. I loaned out pretty much everything I had, and it was gone from there."

Without a dollar to his name to spend for food, Barry, who weighs over 237 pounds, spent the three days prior to his arrival in Los Angeles living off of whatever food he could find in his apartment, trying merely to keep himself nourished before the UFC provided him with a per diem in the days leading up to the fight.

"I was left with pretty much nothing," Barry said. "We got to Los Angeles on Tuesday and the Saturday before we left, I was sitting at home with zero dollars, man. I had nothing, man. I wasn't going to be able to pay rent, electricity, buy food, get gas, I wasn't going to be able to do anything. About the first of November, all that was going to be done, I was going to be put out and with nowhere to live.

"In my house I had a box of instant white rice – like the five-minute rice – and some ketchup," Barry continued. "And was like, 'Eat this until we get to LA, Saturday, Sunday, Monday.' That's what I was doing."

Barry refused to tell two of the closest people in his life, his coach and his mother, of the financial strain he tied himself in. Responsibility builds character.

"I'm the one that put myself into the financial bind and I didn't want to depend on anybody else to save me, because how hard would you work for something if anytime you're about to hit the ground, someone catches you. Not hard at all. "

The sacrifice and reward

There's no telling how long a career lasts in the UFC. When you're only as good as your last fight, all it takes is a single loss for a fighter to be released. Having already fallen in a submission loss in May, Barry couldn't afford back-to-back losses.

"Every time we step in the ring, it's a gamble," Barry said. "No matter how prepared we are, anything can happen on any given day. It was a bet. It was a big risk that I took cause I could have came out with absolutely nothing, but I got in and I did what needed to be done, and I able to reap the benefits of it."

And reap the benefits he did. On top of the purse and win bonus for a combined $14,000, according to the California State Athletic Commission, Barry won the Knockout of the Night and Fight of the Night award for more bonuses totaling $120,000.

"I would have guessed some kind of bonus for Cry of the Century," Barry said. "I definitely would have gotten the hardest cry in UFC history award. I wouldn't be surprised by that, or coolest backflip ever seen ever by a heavyweight, but I wouldn't have guessed Fight of the Night or Knockout of the Night. And to get both of them, it's still unbelievable now."

With his prize, Barry was able to rebuild his savings and send money to his family in New Orleans. He also paid off the debt that he had accrued along the way to make it to this stage. But after paying off taxes, trainers, sponsors and credit card bills, Barry continues to live at most a modest lifestyle.

"I'm not as awesomely rolling as people think," Barry said. "But with the lifestyle that I've been living, I'll be able to last for a while off of this. But in actuality it's not as much as people think because take into consideration how much I made and how long it took me to make it. That's like almost minimum wage for seven years straight.

"If this has been going this whole time and this was the fifth or sixth time I did this, then yeah, I'll tell you I'm rich. But now I don't have to worry about eating white rice and ketchup for a long time."

There's the financial and personal sacrifice to be a fighter, and while Barry was compensated reasonably well, the fight took a toll on his body. Doctors told him the damage from that one fight will sideline him for the next several months.

"I broke my left thumb, so I've got two pins placed in my hand to put my thumb back together," Barry said. "And it wasn't until a week after the fight where the adrenaline starts wearing off, that I started noticing all the different bumps and bruises that I have. My leg's a little sore, my right hand hurts a little bit, from the punches that I landed. But I also have the right square of my right side of my face are all numb, like I've got some nerve damage on the face where I can't feel my tooth, half of my lip, half of my nose or my right eyelid. I can feel the pressure when I push on it. It's like I got a Novocain shot at the dentist."


Upon winning, Barry fell to his knees and cried. But to find out why Barry was especially emotional during the fight, you have to look back at a time when he was in pursuit of becoming a champion in a different sport.

"I went out to Amsterdam," Barry said. "Chasing the K-1 dream, to be the greatest kickboxer in the galaxy."

In 2004, Barry debuted for K-1 and by 2006, he received the unique opportunity to train at the VAS gym under K-1 legend Ernesto Hoost.

"I was a teammate and he had a few of us that surrounded him being his training partners and when he was hired, he became coach and he pulled four of us in: Myself, Jerrel Venetiaan, Paul Slowinski and Antoni Hardonk, who was already in the UFC," Barry said. "So there were three kickboxers and one MMA guy, so we trained, and trained and trained and I lived between Amsterdam and China for like five years, mainly in Amsterdam and I felt as if I wasn't being taken seriously, or my ability wasn't being acknowledged. I felt like I was not getting the time in or the attention. And this was over years.

"I ended up having a not-so-great falling out with Ernesto because I've known him so many years – and it's got to the point where the last two years, I'm asking myself 'What am I doing here?' and why won't I just go home and go somewhere else?' But you're training with the best in the world and this guy, he's my hero, and everything I ever wanted was to be like this guy, as good if not better than him. I was training with him and we were friends."

Paydays were far and between. Barry was only fighting twice a year, and between having to pay rent, his own training gear and the pressure he was putting on his family back home, he was forced to make a change.

"Eventually I decided to leave," Barry said. "I can't do this anymore. I just felt time was flying by and everybody else was getting these opportunities, and I'm not so I've got to go.

"And when I went, I never heard from [Hoost] again," Barry said. "He never said bye, nothing. When I left, that was it. It was like I didn't matter.

"Five years, five years and when I said I'm not coming back, the response was pretty much, "So?' That wasn't fair. There wasn't nothing. No, 'Hey, when are you coming back?' Nothing. I was just going and it didn't matter to anybody."

Barry returned to the US and switched over to MMA with Duke Roufus in Milwaukee. Like his goals as a kickboxer, Barry immediately set high expectations for himself.

"That whole 'Hype or Die' (his nickname) concept, if you're going to do it, do it all the way and be the best or don't even bother trying. That's like Yoda said, 'Do or do not, there is no try.'"

Barry decided that if MMA was the next step in his evolution as a fighter, he was going to fight for the UFC to face the best competition. And when he thought of MMA, the first person that came to his mind was a familiar face from Amsterdam.

"Antoni Hardonk is in the UFC, and he's a dangerous guy in the UFC and he's also my training partner so fighting him is what I'm aiming for, for a few reasons. He's awesome, he's great, and to get inside the ring with someone his caliber and win is a testament to myself and also my hard work, but at the same time maybe I'll finally get the recognition from Ernesto that I've always wanted. Maybe I'll get the recognition, the acknowledgement that I am good, that I do work hard, that I never got."

Giving back

Barry comes from a family of teachers. Sharing knowledge with someone is leaving them with something that will never go away. He carries that mentality with him when he's teaching classes at the gym, and knew that once he reached some form of financial stability, he could turn that attitude back home.

"I am from New Orleans, which still has a few aftereffects from the hurricane that happened years ago, but I want to give back. I think New Orleans is the greatest country in the world ... I said that right, New Orleans is the greatest country in the world. I've loved this place since day one and I never want to be anywhere else."

Barry teamed with his cousin from USA Bridge Builders. Together, they are putting together a non-profit foundation for kids, appropriately named "Hype or Die Kids". Similar to the NFL's Play 60, Barry will encourage kids to play outside. Barry also plans to visit the city twice a year and will travel around schools to teach kickboxing.

"Now that I'm finally in a position to finally make that happen and giving back – a little bit-then that's what I've been doing. I've been setting that up, but I'm taking my time with my thumb, I sing to it every night to speed up the recovery process because I want to get back in there when I have the momentum," said Barry, who is currently in a cast.

While he recovers, Barry's time is spent with the non-profit and teaching kids classes at the Roufus camp.

"I'm surrounded by the greatest people in the world," Barry said. "My team, my coach. He's the greatest thing that has ever happened to me. Not just coach-wise. He's my friend, and that's what means more to me than anything else. The dude is just all-around ... he's a great man. And he's got my back. He's there for me.

"My entire team is everything that I've always wanted, everything that I never knew I wanted. With these guys, we're all going to go to the top of the world, and we're going to make a massive crater in this sport. This sport is going to evolve when I'm finished with it."

As for Ernesto Hoost, he hasn't heard from his former mentor. And it doesn't matter.

"Not anymore," Barry said. "I've waited two years just waiting to get some sort of [recognition] and I don't need it anymore."
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