What poster did you have hanging in your room? For me, it was Michael Jordan and Jordan Knight. For UFC heavyweight Pat Barry, it was Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic. This weekend, Barry will fight the man he has long idolized. He spoke with Cagewriter about this bout.
Cagewriter: How did you react when you heard you were fighting Crop Cop?
Pat Barry: When they called and said, "You're fighting Cro Cop," I said, "Hell yeah! I'll do this!" But when I got off the phone, I said, "Oh [expletive]. I said yeah too easy." I've gotta win this fight. This is too important. This is a humongous fight. The humungousnessestest fight.
I've been dedicating my entire life to the gloves. I breathe, eat, sleep the gloves. I lay on them as pillows at night. I've been away from my family, away from my friends, I've dedicated everything to it. It's always been little steps, little steps then a big jump. You start wondering, "Am I wasting my time?" and deep down, I know for a fact that I'm great at what I do. I'm gonna be great at what I do.
But after a long time, that voice starts to say, "I'm great ... I'm great?" For my name even to be used in the same sentence as Cro Cop is astounding. Not only is my name being used in the same sentence as his, I get to to test my skills in the same cage as this guy. So, all my sacrifice and hard work is obviously paying off because I get to test myself against the greatest of all time. That's insane. Either that, or the UFC really doesn't like me and they're trying to get rid of me.
CW: Does it get in your head that you're fighting him?
PB: I haven't slept in weeks. I've been awake for three months now. I've bitten all my fingernails off. I've always wanted to meet him, and not only do I get to meet him, but I get to touch gloves with him and then get to punch him in the face. This is crazy. I get to meet him! I used to have a poster of this guy on the wall. I get to shake his hand and get his autograph.
The first time I see him, I'm going to scream. The second time? I'll be gangster. I'm nervous with anticipation to meet him.
CW: Does fighting in Canada, where MMA is so popular and the fight sold out in such a short time, add any pressure?
PB: I was always told that Canada is a haven for kickboxing. MMA is huge, but kickboxing is still loved, so they got Cro Cop, a legendary kickboxer, against Pat Barry, a regular kickboxer, in an Octagon with small gloves on. From what I've been told, our fight being on the card is part of what made it sell out so quickly. Those might just be rumors, but I think it's a big deal that it sold out so quickly. That's a different crowd in Canada.
CW: Is there any chance this fight goes to the ground?
PB: If Cro Cop, kicks me in my face, sure, if I can't beat him standing up, I have no problem trying to tackle him from across the cage. If this fight goes to the ground, it's because I took it there. He's fought some outrageous strikers, and he's never taken it to the ground. If I tackle Cro Cop to the ground, then I am definitely in trouble. Something has gone absolutely wrong. I am panicking, and I'm out of ideas on what to do next.
CW: The story about you eating ketchup packets and rice before your last fight prompted many letters, emails and comments. Did the reaction surprise you?
PB: Yeah, and I'm still surprised by it, because to this day, no one talks to me about that fight. Ever since that fight, I'm not known as the guy who beat Antoni Hardonk, I'm known as the guy who cried and made a lot of money, which was huge. The fact that I got on Yahoo.com is huge. I'm still getting letters asking me how I'm doing now.
The fight lasted seven minutes, but that took eight years to make. It was eight years of swinging for the fences and total sacrifice to bring that in. It brought me back to zero. I'm a little bit above water, but $150,000 is not a lot if you spread it over eight years.
CW: Is winning another set of bonuses [Barry won Knockout of the Night and Fight of the Night at UFC 104] now on your mind as you train?
PB: The one thing that stood out to me is that it happened, so if it happened once it could happen again. I'm not aiming for that, but if it happens once, it could happen again.
CW: Are you still frugal? Do you have ways to stretch your money?
PB: I'm not necessarily a cheapskate, I'm just real lame. I'm not opposed to spending money, but I just don't do anything. I live 30 feet from the gym. I walk to practice, watch DVDs, walk back to practice. I don't do anything. I eat. That's where all my money goes. I eat Christmas dinner five times a day. I'm 255 pounds right now, and I'm in shape. I'm not dropping down. I'm not little. I'm short, but these (points to legs) weigh 200 pounds each. I'm 10 pounds away from having to cut weight to make heavyweight. What's everybody looking at? It's because I'm 5-foot-11.
CW:You are one of the shorter heavyweights. Is that playing into your preparation for Cro Cop?
PB: I'm the shortest heavyweight there is. Everyone I've fought is 6-foot-2-plus. Everybody's been taller and longer. I have a harder time with guys my own height than I do with 7-foot-monsters.
CW: You haven't fought since October because of a broken hand. Where does it stand now?
PB: My hand is never going to be what it was before, but it's as good as it's going to get. I have two pins are drilled through the thumb.
CW: What's the environment like here at Duke Roufus' camp?
PB: Everybody's phone is on and available for my late-night, strung-out phone calls, talking about how I don't want this fight and I need more time. My phone is on and available for the guys who are having their moments. There's a real unity. It's not a bunch of guys who train together.
CW: Do those phone calls happen often?
PB: You'll get two or three calls from me a day. "Hey man, I threw a punch that didn't land right. I suck. I'm not ready. I'm ready? You think I'm ready?"
CW: You wear your heart on your sleeve. Does that help you as a fighter?
PB: It helps me because I'm not denying how I feel. I don't fit in with those guys. I'm not a meat-eating, blood-thirsty, let's drink blood, eat babies — (growl). Naw, I wake up every morning thinking this is dumb. I can read. What am I doing this for? At the end of the day, I know why. I love this. I would never stop. But I've questioned it many times. I don't think it's so much me being unique or different. I just think I'm being honest. Everybody's gotta be feeling this.
CW: When you're walking to the Octagon, do you still have moments of, how did I get here?
PB: Every time. All the time. I'm supremely confident in myself, my ability, my team, but still, it's a fistfight. Anything can happen. You never know when, and you're consciously putting your hand in the fire. I'm not an angry guy. I've never been in a street fight. I'm not mad at nothing. I play the fight game very well.
CW: How do you play that game?
PB: It's so psychological. Punching and kicking is easy. Anybody can do that. Convincing yourself to punch and kick? Now that's the fight. Convincing yourself to come back to practice the second day, now that's the challenge. It's the personal challenge of "will I wake up and go to practice." The hardest part for me is walking to the gym. That walk to the gym is tough. I call my mom crying regularly. I have emotional swings, and it's not daily. It's minute-by-minute.
There are some guys who are genuinely, angry beasts. But the majority of these tough guys out here are playing the role of the tough guy because people expect that of them.