Barry: Cro Cop still deadly

Pat (HD) Barry earned 'knockout of the night' and 'fight of the night' honours for his destruction...

Pat (HD) Barry earned 'knockout of the night' and 'fight of the night' honours for his destruction of Antoni Hardonk at UFC 104 in October. At UFC 115, he faces a kickboxing and MMA legend in Mirko (Cro Cop) Filipovic.

NEIL SPRINGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:07 PM ET

Mirko (Cro Cop) Filipovic has signed his fair share of autographs.

An international MMA and kickboxing star for many years, Filipovic (26-7-2) will no doubt need to bust out his trusty pen upon landing in Vancouver ahead of his Canadian debut at UFC 115.

However, he may be surprised to find his opponent, Pat (HD) Barry, right at the front of the line of eager fans.

"I wasn't joking about getting an autograph," Barry (5-1) said on the UFC 115 media conference call. "I really mean it.

"I had a poster of Mirko on my wall. He was on my top-five list of scariest guys on the planet. This was before I even started training, when my brother and I would just sit around watching K-1 fights. This is a guy that I idolized...he's still one of my five favourite kickboxers."

A dangerous striker in his own right, Barry will step into the octagon with his hero in the co-main event of UFC 115 at GM Place this Saturday. The show will be headlined by a bout between Rich (Ace) Franklin and Chuck (The Iceman) Liddell.

Barry admitted it will be tricky not to be star-struck come fight night.

"Will it be difficult to see this as a regular fight? Absolutely," Barry said. "Who in their right mind, with the amount of experience that I have -- which is only two years of MMA -- can walk up to Cro Cop and just shake his hand like he's a regular guy? That's something I'm sure I'll have to do, but in my eyes he's not regular.

"It's like the time I met Chuck Liddell -- I almost passed out. These guys are heroes to me because I'm still a fan of the sport myself."

Filipovic said he has nothing but respect for Barry and looks forward to an exciting stand-up battle.

"I've never met Pat, but, definitely, I like the guy," Filipovic said. "Not because he said I'm one of his favourite fighters and, I'm not sure if he was joking, but not because he said he wants an autograph.

"He's very polite. I don't like the tough attitude (some fighters have). You know, fighting at the press conference and spitting at each other. This is just a sport and I like people who act like sportsmen. Pat is definitely a sportsman and a good fighter."

Filipovic was once considered the deadliest striker in MMA. His highlight reel of head-kick knockouts includes such tough fighters as Wanderlei (The Axe Murderer) Silva, Aleksander Emelianenko and Igor (Ice Cold) Vovchanchyn.

However, since leaving the now defunct PRIDE Fighting Championships, Filipovic has struggled in the UFC, going 3-3. While many have speculated he's a shadow of his former self, Barry says Filipovic is still the same fighter who delivered so many legendary knockouts.

"I'll tell you the same thing I've said to everybody else," Barry began. "Cro Cop is still the man he's always been; still the monster he's always been. He's still as deadly as he's always been. But because of him, everybody else has had no choice but to get better. Everybody had to evolve in order to survive with guys like Cro Cop; in order to even be in the same arena as this guy. He's not older, slower, weaker -- nothing. Everybody else got better.

"Anybody who says Cro Cop is out of his prime can feel free to fight him for me.

"We've all had no choice but to get better -- timing wise and in terms of accuracy. There's always been striking in MMA. But when Cro Cop stepped into MMA, he was light years ahead of the striking in MMA. This is just my opinion. No one has to agree with me. The level of kicking and punching he brought to the sport was astounding. People hadn't seen that before. And being left handed -- there were only like three lefties on earth and he was two of them."

Filipovic agreed that competition has gotten stiffer over the years, but admitted there are days he doesn't want to fight.

"Part of that is definitely true," Filipovic said. "MMA as a sport is growing. Fighters are more complete than ever before. But to get a victory in competition, you also have to have your day. It doesn't mean that I'm looking for an excuse, but sometimes you just don't feel good. You just don't feel like you want to fight.

"I remember there was a day (in this camp) where my sparring partners were beating me up. The next day I came and knocked them out all of them. Just like that. I just feel good that day. Some other days I don't feel good and when that happens in a fight, then you are in trouble. But of course, I did everything I could to prepare myself, to get my body in the best possible shape. I trained really hard for this fight and I will do my best."

A win on Saturday could turn Barry into a household name. However, he refuses to see Filipovic as a stepping stone.

"I never look at any of the fights that I have as 'launching my career,'" Barry said. "I've got to take every fight one at a time. You also have to keep in mind that I've been (competing) in MMA for a year and half now. I had a long kickboxing career with a lot of fights, but I had three MMA fights and then I was in the UFC. I had three UFC undercard fights and now my fourth is against Mirko Cro Cop in the co-main event.

"Something I'm doing is working because my name is being used in the same sentence as his. Now, I'm standing in the same octagon as him. We're going to touch gloves and I get to test myself against him."


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