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Tamdan McCrory outlines three-step plan for UFC success: 'Make weight. Crush your opponent. Get paid.'

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Esther Lin/MMA Fighting

In a time when MMA's "free market" is as publicly discussed and seemingly alluring as ever, there goes Tamdan McCrory, trotting up to the UFC's front desk and eagerly filling out a job application.

The 29-year-old New Yorker fought for the UFC from June 2007 to August 2009, posting a 3-3 record during that stretch, only to endure a series of hardships that bucked him from the sport of MMA altogether.

"I’ve had to overcome loss personal, professional and financial issues I’ve struggled with," McCrory told MMA Fighting. "Luckily this year I was able to turn a corner on a lot of those to get to here and start 2016 on a high note."

After a five-year hiatus, McCrory resurfaced, this time competing for rival organization Bellator MMA. After knocking out the heavy-handed Brennan Ward in 21 seconds and submitting ground specialist Jason Butcher in 66 ticks, McCrory made his next move. He was primed for a payday, and there was only one business name he wanted to adorn the check.

"If there was better money elsewhere, they weren’t offering it to me," McCrory said. "Bellator had no interest in marketing my story or investing in me. So if that’s the case, I’m going to go somewhere where people are going to pay me equitably and give me more exposure.

"I have the opportunity to win bigger bonuses than I would ever get with Bellator [in the UFC]. It was an easy call, because I’ll roll the dice to make 50 g’s every time as opposed to getting the underdog money in Bellator."

The free market wasn't so difficult to navigate for "The Barncat." With outside offers coming up short of his desired payout, he went back to the eight-sided cage to face The Ultimate Fighter standout Josh Samman at UFC on Fox 17 in Orlando. Looking for his third-straight win since returning to the sport, McCrory put on a show, submitting Samman in Round 3 with just 50 seconds left on the clock.

The win, to a fan, was definitive. To McCrory, though, he was perhaps just a few seconds from losing the fight and enduring a pain he didn't wish to feel.

"I wasn’t worried [in the fight], but the problem is, I look back on that fight, and I didn’t fight to look like I was winning on the judges’ scorecards," McCrory said. "I fought to finish the guy. The problem with that is that sometimes I gave up a position that could’ve scored better in his favor because of him being on top. But he wasn’t really doing any damage from the top, and when I was on the bottom, he was fighting for his life.

"The only thing I look back on and think I screwed up is that I don’t know what the judges were thinking, but in my opinion, I probably lost the first round. In the second round, I was killing him. Then the third round, if it went to a decision, I would’ve lost in my mind. Perception is reality, and I don’t know what they’re looking at."

While the finish was not unexpected to the Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace, McCrory noted he didn't envision the fight playing out so heavily on the mats.

"I expected to go out there and stand and trade," McCrory said. "He hit me with a kick and I kind of stumbled, so I grabbed a hold of him, and I thought, ‘Okay, let’s see how I can move him on the cage. I’ll build my insurance policy now.’ Then the dude took me down, and I thought, ‘Damn, dude, I thought this guy was going to try to knock me out.’ So we ended up on the ground, and I thought, ‘Fine, if you want to play here, we can play here, too.’ I wasn’t afraid of his ground game one bit, and it showed.

"There’s a pleasure in winning, but there would’ve been a much greater pain in losing. I used that to motivate me. I knew I had to come back and perform. I didn’t want it to be one of those, ‘Oh, you should’ve stayed in Bellator.’"

The win brought a spotlight to McCrory he hadn't felt in some time. Despite putting on near-flawless performances with Bellator, "The Barncat" said he didn't feel the love from the promotional side. The public relations team, he said, didn't invest in marketing him to the public, perhaps because he is, by his own admission, a "wild card" type of personality.

Compounding this, McCrory is not one to engage in the verbal banter via Twitter or other social media channels that boosts other fighters' stock and brings them into the public eye. To him, there's another way to do things, one summarized in three easy steps.

"The crap-talking and what not is really only a short-term bump to your stock," McCrory said. "My manager and I are of the opinion that it doesn’t matter what you do as long as you win and as long as you win well...Ultimately, my goal is to go out there, crush my opponents and get paid. Make weight. Crush your opponent. Get paid. It’s a three-step process. As long as you keep doing that, your stock’s going to rise over time. I may be in the index right now. I’m growing slowly, but in the end, I’m going to have a good return."

If, when listening to McCrory speak, you pick up some of these "wild card" vibes, it's nothing he's not aware of, and it's a trait he embraces. He enjoys livening things up a bit when he enters the room, despite the sometimes-negative persona doing so can build.

"People look at me like, ‘Is this guy serious?’" McCrory said. "Here's the perfect example: One of my coaches, one of my corners, I went out, and he has an older daughter, she’s like 17, 18, and she babysits my child a lot. I went out with my wife and we came back, and I was just talking. We were BS’ing and she was talking to her dad afterward and said to him, ‘I think Tamdan was high. I don’t know. He was talking and he was being really weird. I think he smoked some grass or something.’

"And he goes, ‘Listen. Tamdan doesn’t smoke weed, number one. And if he did, he definitely wouldn’t be doing it right now. That’s just how he is. He’s got (as my last opponent put it) a ‘goofy demeanor.’ People think he’s on something, but that’s just how he is.’"

Beneath the "goofy demeanor," though, McCrory possesses a vision and a purpose. He's a family man, a fighter, a coach and a role model for his students and his peers alike. There's nothing flippant about his motivations, even when the delivery may suggest otherwise.

"My family definitely gives a little more meaning to what I do," McCrory said. "It could be fun to go back through the Rolodex with my daughter and tell her what daddy used to do. But it’s not the same as her being there watching daddy do it, still being the fighter, still being the coach and role model. Now she’s a part of the journey and not just hearing the story.


"If you ask her, ‘What does daddy do?’ she says ‘boom-boom.’ If you ask her what mommy does, she says ‘work.’ So mommy works and daddy boom-booms."

So in an age when UFC fighters willingly leave the promotion or test the waters in negotiations with organizations such as Bellator MMA, ONE Fighting Championship and more, there goes "The Barncat," strutting against traffic and tipping his hat toward the wayward passers-by as he goes.

For a fighter who makes his walks to the Octagon fueled by the death-metal riffage of Dethklok, who embraces his "dad-bod" in a sport characterized by chiseled abs and bulging biceps, and who jams out to Ariana Grande's latest hit as he crushes a 5k run on the treadmill, it's all just convention.

Trends be damned, "The Barncat" is right where he belongs.