Bryan Barberena explains why UFC 286 fight with ‘legend’ Gunnar Nelson a big deal
LONDON – Bryan Barberena is excited about the opportunity to fight Gunnar Nelson at UFC 286.
Barberena (18-9 MMA, 9-7 UFC) stepped in for Daniel Rodriguez to take on Nelson (18-5-1 MMA, 9-5 UFC) on Saturday’s main card at The O2 in London. The main card airs on pay-per-view following prelims on ESPN and early prelims on ESPN+.
Having fought Matt Brown, Robbie Lawler and Rafael dos Anjos in his past three fights, Barberena puts Nelson in a similar class to his recent opposition.
“Actually, I pumped about the name,” Barberena said at Wednesday’s UFC 286 media day. “After the last fight and everything, I was bitter about it, bitter about my performance. I went right back to work and I think this fight kind of lines up perfectly for what I want to display and what I want to show.
“Gunnar is a legend in himself, especially in Europe and all over here. Now they’re bringing in another legend, legend vs. legend fight, so that’s exciting. And honestly I think for the fanbase and everything, I think this is a bigger fight than the original one.”
UFC 286 pre-event facts: Rafael Fiziev's stats could spell trouble for Justin Gaethje
Bryan Barberena thankful with UFC for big-name matchups: 'I'm a huge fan of all of these guys'
Bryan Barberena says UFC 276 win over Robbie Lawler was dream come true
Nelson has only fought once in the past four years, but Barberena doesn’t think his inactivity will have an impact on his performance.
“I’m familiar with layoffs as well so I expect him to be the best version of himself,” Barberena said. “I expect the best Gunnar, I think he’s going to come out firing, I think he’s going to come out ready to extend his win streak and make a run for the top again. He’s a legend and I think he’s still held high in the fighting community, in the world, and in the rankings. So, it’s a big deal, it’s a big fight, and like I said, I’m ready to go.”
For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC 286.