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Chris Barnett’s black-belt parents on highlight-reel knockout: ‘Literally, my mom yelled at me’

Chris Barnett, aka “Beastboy,” aka “Huggy Bear,” comes from a family of taekwondo practitioners. Mom and dad are black belts, like he is. His daughter’s rank is brown, and his son’s is orange.

All of this is to say that when he uses a taekwondo technique, how he does it and what it’s called really matters. When he knocked out his first UFC opponent this past Saturday at UFC 268, the folks had notes.

“Literally, my mom yelled at me when I got home,” Barnett said Monday on The MMA Hour. “She was like, ‘Why do they keep calling it a wheel kick? Why do they keep calling it a tornado? It’s a spinning hook-kick. I was like, ‘I’m sorry.’”

The reason it was a hook kick, Barnett explained, is because of the bend in his leg that allowed his heel to get to the back of Gian Villante’s head, knocking him silly and touching off one of the year’s most hilarious post-win celebrations in the octagon.

The spinning-hook kick earned Barnett an extra $50,000 for “Performance of the Night.”

Barnett’s father used to corner him for fights, but a recent stroke left him unable to travel and not able to communicate as well as before. That still didn’t keep him from weighing in on his son’s finishing move.

“When I left, I was like, ‘Hey, I’m going to MSG to fight,’” Barnett said. “And [he said], ‘You need to do you.’ He’s still one of my biggest critics, which is awesome, because he was mad at me that I put my hand down for the spinning hook kick.

“He was like, ‘If you would have done it clean, it would have been down, but good knockout, I guess.’ ... He’s not the same, but it’s still there, especially with me. To be able to show him and be able talk to him about it before, I know, deep down inside, he was like, ‘Yes.’ But outside, it’s like, ‘So, here’s what you’ve got to clean up.’ Still dad at the end of the day.”

Barnett needed something to bring him down after going from MMA journeyman to viral octagon star overnight. Going into the Madison Square Garden event, he had 48,000 followers on Instagram, and he liked to respond to individual fans who inspired him to fight better. Then he woke up on Sunday, and there were a tidal wave of messages waiting.

“Man, things just ain’t the same for gangsters,” he said. “It’s wild. It’s drastically changed. I literally gained 100,000 followers overnight. I was trying to keep up with my Instagram, and I’m at the point now where I’m ready to delete all of it. I can’t keep up with everything.”

It was a heck of a way to start winning in the UFC, and yet Barnett is determined not to get too ahead of himself. He is 22-7 as a professional, with stints in fight promotions big and small around the world. In the world’s biggest one, however, he is 1-1.

“My whole thing is, I really feel like I have a huge advantage,” he said. “I feel like somebody was able to hit the reset button on myself, but I was able to bring the knowledge before I hit the reset button. I feel like ‘Ultron’ – they try to get rid of me, but I still have what you tried to get rid of me with right here. With what I’m doing now, I’m actually training like a fighter. I don’t want to take away from anything that I’ve done in the past with anybody else, but I’ve never trained like an actual fighter. Now, I’m training like an actual fighter, and the results are showing.”

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