For certain fighters, a majority of their popularity comes from something I like to call the “How Can You Not” argument. As in: How can you not like them?
The primary example of this type of fighter is Wanderlei Silva, but heading into UFC on FOX 3, I think this argument defines Pat Barry, as well. And with the recent and varied shakeups of the heavyweight division, I think the UFC needs him now more than ever.
But before we go into the specifics, I’d like to point out that the UFC needs someone like Barry even if their heavyweight division wasn’t in a state of general upheaval. Outside of the ring, Barry has shown himself to be a very sincere, very honest, very appreciative MMA fighter. He’s often pretty hilarious as well.
And unlike some fighters that have to be humbled by a knockout, Barry was always a humble fighter. And in this modern era of “super-athletes with super-egos,” that’s very rare to see.
In general, he’s a very entertaining fighter. But the UFC needs Barry in particular right now due to several interesting developments in recent months.
The obvious example is the nine-month suspension of Alistair Overeem, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I’d honestly say that most of the UFC’s top heavyweights are currently in a state of flux.
Junior dos Santos, the current heavyweight champion, has to prove that he has the ability to transform his incredible run to get to the top into an incredible run to stay at the top.
Overeem, as previously mentioned, stormed into the UFC and became the No. 2 guy overnight, and just as quickly he’s on the sideline for nine months.
Former champion Cain Velasquez now has to rebuild his image almost from the ground-up after getting knocked out in just over a minute.
Former champion Frank Mir’s position in the division always seems to be in flux no matter what the situation is, and that’s definitely true right now as Mir is set to challenge for a championship despite the fact that the last time he faced a striker the caliber of Dos Santos (Shane Carwin) he was knocked out in under four minutes.
Mark Hunt certainly benefited from the “Rally for Mark Hunt” movement, and as a big Hunt fan myself I’m very excited to see where he goes from here. But he’s still living under the shadow of his epic losing streak—and now that he’s back to just being another contender—he’s probably at least two, maybe even three fights away from everyone willing to accept him as a championship challenger.
Roy Nelson always seems to bounce between a big win and a humbling loss. Fabricio Werdum is knocking on the door, but a lot of people still remember his bizarre performance against Overeem. Antonio Silva is coming into the UFC and maybe he’ll be a contender too.
And in Strikeforce, the winner of Strikeforce’s Heavyweight Grand Prix will almost certainly be going to the UFC and entering as an instant contender. Even the loser of the Grand Prix will more than likely enter the Octagon, and with the skills Daniel Cormier and Josh Barnett have shown in Strikeforce, both of them could be title contenders in only one or two fights!
I could go on, but my point is this: Throughout this sea of competitors that all seem to fluctuate in the rankings, you’ve got a fighter that comes to either get the knockout or get knocked out.
If Barry loses at UFC on Fox 3, he’ll have won only one out of his last four fights. With most UFC fighters, that’s usually a good sign that they’ll soon be out of the promotion. But in cases like Yoshihiro Akiyama and Dan Hardy, the UFC seems unable to let go of either fighter no matter how many they lose.
I think the same exemption should be made for Barry.
Not only that—I think it will be made for Barry. The UFC, as a promotion, has never had a problem seeing what’s directly in front of its face. Barry is a charismatic striker that can, will and has given UFC fans amazing moments that have us talking for weeks.
This is an “ends justify the means” situation. Until he goes on a losing streak that lasts for more than two fights (Akiyama and Hardy are both currently on four-fight losing streaks and still employed by the UFC) and/or until he starts being a boring fighter, Barry deserves to remain in the Octagon no matter who he’s fighting or where he ranks in the division.
When it comes to Barry, I don’t think his place in the division is as important as his role. He’s the guy that will make you feel like you got more than your money’s worth. So long as that doesn’t change, the UFC needs Barry now more than ever.