LAS VEGAS – UFC heavyweight Pat Barry struggles to describe his relationship with soon-to-be pro fighter and, he promises, big-time star, Rose Namajunas.
Wife? Well, not really. Girlfriend? Well, it's more than that.
"We have an understanding," Barry said Saturday, an hour or so after scoring a crushing knockout of Shane del Rosario at 26 seconds of the second round in 'The Ultimate Fighter 16' finale at the Hard Rock. "I call her my lady. Let's leave it at that for now. She's my lady."
Barry is one of the world's most honest and emotional athletes. It was hard for him to go about his day on Friday when he was awakened by a text message informing him of the tragic shootings in Newtown, Conn.
After hitting Del Rosario with a massive left hand and a crushing right hook that won him Knockout of the Night honors, Barry nearly broke down in the ring.
"If you got kids," he said to the crowd, "go hug them like it's your last day."
He struggled to keep from breaking down. He was able to fight, he said later, because it's his job and "we're professionals at this, and we know how to turn it on and off."
Barry, though, is never off. His life is like a continuous social media stream, as he shares the good and the bad, the happy and the sad.
Part of the good is now his life with Namajunas, whom he promises will "without a doubt, no question, no [expletive], guaran-[expletive]-teed" become a mega-star in women's mixed martial arts before long.
Their first meeting, though, was not – how shall we put it? – conventional.
"She punched me in the face, actually," Barry said of their first meeting. "That's how we met. She punched me in the face at Duke Roufus' gym in Milwaukee. I came to the gym to spar one day and I was running a little late. We had to match up with someone else and when I got there and got ready, everyone else was matched up. She was open and so was I."
Barry is a massive heavyweight who is one of the hardest hitters in the world. Namajunas is a 115-pounder who is petite and hardly threatening looking. Despite his reservations, Barry paired with her.
"I walked over and I was like, 'Hi, I'll just take it easy,' and, 'Boom,' she hit me in the face," Barry said. "She hit me and I was like, 'What the [expletive] was that? How do you hit that hard?' So I say to myself, 'OK, maybe that was a fluke.' And then, 'boom,' again, this time with the right hand. And I'm like, 'Oh my God! I love you.' She hit me, with the big glove on, so fast and so hard, I could smell iron. I could taste iron. I felt like I'd just licked the refrigerator.
"When she hit me with the third one, and believe me, it was harder and faster than the first two, I'm like, 'The first one was nice. The second one made me love you. But this third one, I'm about to bust your head off.' "
And so Barry unloaded a combination. The guy who is one of the most lethal punchers in the sport let go a 2-1 combination, a straight left followed by a right, with a good amount of velocity behind it.
He cracked her good, but he didn't get the response he expected.
"As soon as it hit, she launched another couple – boom, boom – that hit me right in the face again," he said. "I'm like, 'What is happening here? Who is this?' She took it. She's a monster. She's like, 'If I don't win, I don't eat.' I didn't put my whole bag into it, but I stung the [expletive] out of her.
"It was going to be one of those, 'Hey, I'm Pat Barry. I'm a tough guy.' But guess what? She took it. She beyond took it. I'm like, 'Damn, girl.' "
Barry is one of those guys who can tell self-deprecating stories all day. In the cage, as he said after the fight, he's something of a different guy. "From Day 1, I've said, I'm throwing heat or I'm throwing nothing. I'm either winning all the way or losing all the way, nothing in between."
He's had his share of spectacular losses. He hurt Del Rosario with a huge left, the punch that was the beginning of the end on Saturday, but he hesitated before jumping on him for the finish. That's because he remembered a 2010 loss to Cheick Kongo in which he had Kongo on the verge of going out before getting knocked out himself.
"The last time I rushed somebody, I woke up and thought I won, but they told me Cheick Kongo won," Barry said.
Barry, though, knew he'd had the fight with Del Rosario in the bag at the end of the first round Saturday. Del Rosario took Barry down in the first and worked on a series of submissions.
Barry fended them off, but had to work to do so. When the bell sounded to end the first, Del Rosario slapped Barry on the leg.
"At the end of Round 1, after he went through the submissions that he went through and he couldn't get them, and I was able to stop it and I wasn't tired, because I made that much improvement and I wasn't tired, I [felt really good]," Barry said. "When the bell rang, he tapped me and said, 'Yeah, good.' I remembered as I was getting up, I said, 'Watch out.' I didn't get to say, 'Watch out, because I'm coming for your [expletive] in Round 2,' but when I got back to the corner, I knew we weren't making it out of the second round."
They didn't. Barry landed the huge left followed by the punishing hook. He punches so hard, his hands get so sore that he said, "I can't wipe my butt for three days."
Del Rosario was down and wasn't getting up. It was just another night in the life of Pat Barry.
Afterward, he poured out his emotions in the cage. Later, he sat musing about his lady, whom he predicted would one day be recognized as the best at her profession.
It helps him, he said, to have another fighter in the family because she can relate to the ups and downs in his life.
At home, though, there is no question who is the boss and Barry is quick to concede it's not him.
"No matter what happens," Barry said of the times he has a disagreement with Namajunas, "I say sorry on a regular basis. She breaks a glass and I say, 'I'm sorry I didn't catch that.' I say all the time, 'I'm sorry, whatever you need, ma'am. I'll make dinner and wash the dishes.' She's the queen of the world, man. And I'm a giving guy. Whatever it takes to keep her smiling."
Life is a bunch of laughs with Pat Barry, at least until the bell rings. And then things are a bit different.
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