Why NBA legend Charles Barkley loves MMA

Maggie Hendricks

Once driven underground, MMA is a sport that has grown into a billion-dollar industry with fans of all backgrounds. Cagewriter will take a closer look at why certain fans love it so much, starting with Hall-of-Fame basketball player and current TNT analyst Charles Barkley.

Barkley, who had a 16-year career in the NBA, told Cagewriter that he is most impressed with fighters' condition.

"You can't get in there messin' around. It takes a special person to handle that," Barkley said. "They are the best-conditioned jocks in the world. It's always a chess match. You see the guys who are better boxers, and then you see the guys who want to grapple. That's always the interesting part of MMA."

He was in Houston for UFC 136, and was particularly impressed by Frankie Edgar and Chael Sonnen's performances.

"I think the fights this weekend were the best ones I went to personally. I've probably been to about 20, and have gotten another 20 on pay-per-view. The fights were exciting. Sonnen, how we went after Silva after the match, that was awesome. Also, Frankie Edgar, he was impressive." {YSP:MORE}

"That's the second time you thought he was going to lose, and he just showed amazing heart. The other night, I thought, 'Oh, he's in trouble.' Then he came back and won. It was impressive how well he handled the adversity. He's tough as hell."

He didn't hesitate when asked his favorite fighter. Barkley picked a fellow big man.

"Frank Mir. I've always liked his personality. I've seen him fight probably five or six times, and I like the way he carries himself."

Deciding on a favorite fight wasn't as easy. He mentioned how he likes seeing UFC middleweight champ Anderson Silva and light heavyweight champ Jon Jones, then mentioned Georges St. Pierre's win over Thiago Alves at UFC 100.

"There's something that happened in the fight that I could understand as a jock. He blew out his groin, and he's telling the trainer, and the trainer said, 'I don't have time for that [expletive],' and he came back to kick the guy's ass. It was just so cool. You blew out your groin, and your trainer says no. I don't have time for that. You gotta get back out there this round. That's the beauty of playing sports. You just have to do that sometimes when you don't feel right."

Barkley said that he had plenty of instances in his playing career when he had to play through pain, so he could sympathize with GSP.

Though Barkley was in a few tussles when playing for the 76ers, Suns and Rockets, he has no interest in getting in the Octagon. When asked if he ever thought about fighting, he gave a clear response.


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