In or out of the cage, Pat Barry is one of MMA's most entertaining fighters, a compact and powerful energy force equally capable of firing off a right hand or a one-liner. When he compete, he draws a crowd for his ability to generate wicked offense, and when he grants interviews, he draws a crowd for the guaranteed laughs that will ensue.
But though he is known for his big smile and amiable personality, Barry is serious when it comes to his improvement. The kickboxing specialist spends much of time now training with Team Deathclutch's stockpile of wrestlers in hopes of rounding out his game.
His next fight, though, comes against Stefan Struve, who like him, has kickboxing as his early base. And even though Struve has developed a diverse game over time, Barry feels Struve's lineage will dictate at least some of this fight. Struve is from The Netherlands, a hub of kickboxing. And Barry believes that pride won't allow Struve to take the easy way out and try to take the fight to the ground.
"There’s just no way he can lose a kickboxing match to an American," Barry told NBCSports.com about his upcoming bout, which takes place on October 1 and will be broadcast on Versus. "That’s just impossible. If he loses a kickboxing match to an American, he can’t go home. I know that because I lived in Amsterdam for five years and I know how they are over there. He’s going to come in and he’s going to throw punches and kicks at me because he has to win that way."
The bout may feature the largest height differential in UFC history. Struve, aptly nicknamed "The Skyscraper," is 6-foot-11. Barry, meanwhile, is 5-foot-11. He'll also have to negotiate nearly a one-foot differential in reach.
In typical Barry fashion, he jokes about his preparation, saying, "I've been kicking the top of trees and finding people on stilts," but later offers that he expects no major problems in reaching Struve with his striking game. He also adds that whether he misses or connects may not matter.
"The very first punch I throw at his head -- even if it misses -- he’s going to turn into a wrestler just like anyone else," he said.
Barry, who is 6-3 overall, is coming off a memorable bout at June's UFC Live on Versus event. At two different points of the first round, Barry seemed on the verge of a huge win over Cheick Kongo. He knocked Kongo down twice and worked to finish with Kongo with strikes from the top, but the French striker somehow returned to his feet and uncorked a right hook that landed flush against Barry's ear. Barry wobbled but continued moving forward, where Kongo blasted him with a right uppercut that stopped Barry cold. He had gone from sure victory to absolute defeat in less than five seconds.
While most would consider it a heart-breaking loss, Barry says that he rebounded almost immediately, chalking it up to a sheer fluke.
"It sucked when I woke up and thought I won and found out that I lost, but by the time I walked out of the octagon, I was fine with it," he said. "I didn’t do anything wrong. That was a time-running-low-on-the-clock, Hail Mary pass. Someone caught it and won the Super Bowl. That’s all that is. That wasn’t a a planned punch. He threw it, it landed. I didn’t do anything wrong. My game plan was right. I came in to hit him a lot. Hit him until we got to the parking lot. But unfortunately, I got stung."
Lesson learned, it was back to training, working his wrestling and jiu-jitsu to better compete with the multi-talented fighters of the UFC. While he would always prefer a standup fight, his overall game continues to grow, making a fight with Struve a fair test.
"I think it’s great," he said. "It’s a Dutch kickboxer vs. an American kickboxer. He has a really, really good ground game, and he happens to be the tallest guy on earth. It’s a challenge. He’s a striker who’s great on the ground. I’m a striker who’s getting better on the ground, but I’m also 3-foot-9, so we’ll see how this goes."
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