MMA is more than skill - it's dedication

MATT KIELTYKA, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:13 PM ET

VANCOUVER — So you want to be a fighter?

That question is asked to millions of people on TV every time the advertisement for the UFC’s new video game airs.

But unlike picking up a controller and jumping straight into the heat of battle, real mixed martial arts fighters spend years sweating in a gym, repeating techniques thousands of times over and sacrificing any form of social life to make it on the big stage.

Pat Barry, who takes on his idol in Mirko (Cro Cop) Filipovic at UFC 115, learned that the hard way.

After never really committing himself to anything, the New Orleans resident decided to dedicate himself to fighting at the age of 23.

“I was always a C student and just kind of cruised through life,” Barry, 30, says. “I was always the guy urging people to swing for the fences and give it their all, but I never followed my own advice.”

Barry, ever the joker, finally decided to take the plunge and become the ninja he had always wanted to be since childhood.

That determination came with a whole new life.

“People just don’t understand what it’s all about, they don’t get it,” he said. “My entire life consists of training, sleeping and working out.”

The next few years was all about waking up at 6 a.m., training for a couple of hours and sneaking in a quick power nap before strength training in the evening.

Parties, girls and just about everything else fall by the wayside.

“It’s more than a job,” he said. “You have the unplug yourself from the matrix and just go at it every single day.”

And then there’s the diet.

“Oh man … I’m from the south. I love to eat. It doesn’t matter what it is, I just want to put it in my mouth and swallow it,” Barry laughed. “Now I can’t touch a lot of that stuff, it’s pretty hard.”

It’s not unusual for Barry to wake up in the morning and feel like throwing all that hard work away for a little bit of comfort, a sense of normality.

But the same mental drive that attracts him to fighting in the first place keeps him going – even when Hurricane Katrina took his grandmother's life and destroyed his family home, leaving him broke.

“When your back is against the wall, it’s all about survival. The mental and physical challenge keeps you going. It’s how you test yourself,” he said. “[Fighting] is like putting your hand in a fire. Why would anyone want to put their hand in a fire? To test yourself, to tell yourself mentally you can do it.

“Every fight is the last fight. You sit there after, all beat up, and say ‘this is stupid, no more.' And then after a few days it’s ‘OK, maybe one more.’”


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