A vaunted kickboxer in his own right, talk of submissions is completely foreign for Barry, who has admittedly been allergic to the ground game at times throughout his UFC career. After all, each of his two losses have come by way of submission. Not one to skate passed the serious issues, Barry addressed his in-ring deficiencies head-on, pulling no punches.
"That fear of falling down is definitely not what it used to be, not after the way we've been training for this training camp. This isn't one of those `I'm in the best shape of my life' normal speeches that guys give. The fear of falling on the ground isn't there, not any more, especially with him.
"I've bee doing a lot of ground game; I've been working jiu-jitsu and wrestling since I got into MMA, since the Dan Evensen fight. I've been doing all the things I'm supposed to be doing, but I've been having no consistent heavyweight training partners to be doing it with, to be getting into a routine with.
"Every once in a while a big guy will be there, but you know, being at [Duke Roufus' gym, I had] Anthony Pettis, Erik Koch, Dan Downes, Alan Belcher; all these guys are 155 and 185. Being the heaviest guy there, you can do all the work you want and become accustomed to that, but then when a 290,000 pound Tim Hague falls on top of you, that changes everything. So I'm out here training with Marty Morgan and the DeathClutch guys now, and if Cole Konrad grabs you and lies on top of you, you're going to die, period."
Barry pauses to laugh, both at the thought of the gargantuan Bellator heavyweight champion collapsing on top of him, and the implications his development on the ground has for the UFC's heavyweight ranks.
"If you can become accustomed to that? Cole Konrad is a monster. Brock Lesnar is humungous in the gym. Jon Madsen; these guys are all real live wrestlers, all heavyweights, who all do jiu-jitsu also. So what does Pat Barry need in his repertoire? I need heavyweight training partners, wrestling, and jiu-jitsu, and now I'm training with a bunch of heavyweight wrestlers who all do jiu-jitsu. You can't get any better than that. That's the exact concoction that I was needing to further myself."
In addition to teaching him the fundamental skills he needs to the jump to the next level, Barry says the collection of brutes assembled in Alexandria, Minnesota have also changed the way he prepares and his mindset when it comes to training as well.
"These dudes out here, they're wrestlers. They pick you up and powerbomb you on the ground on top of some dumbbells and that's totally normal. They're completely okay with that. POW! Right on the rack of dumbbells, and it's like, `What's the matter? Did the dumbbells get hurt?' I can punch and kick these guys, and wrestle and tackle these guys and they show up the next day. Even if they're walking with a limp, they show up the next day all the time, and they come at you like they don't even know they're hurt.
"It's simulated fighting," continued Barry, explaining the differences between previous training camps and what he's going through in advance of his fight with Kongo on Sunday. "You can practice wrestling all day, boxing all day, jiu-jitsu all day, but if you don't practice fighting, how do you ever get ready for a fight? This is what they do. You can actually practice fighting out here.
"This happens to almost every fighter: you get into the ring and when you throw your first one or two punches that land, generally, that's the first time you've hit a human body that hard with little UFC gloves on because you don't do that in practice. We don't go to practice and practice power punching with little gloves on because we've got to protect each other and make sure everybody comes back the next day. But here, these dudes are just big. They get mad at you when you don't punch them in the head as hard as you can."
Though still a charismatic storyteller and fun-loving figure, Barry admits his outlook and approach to what he does for a living has changed. He tells the story of a wrestling session with coach Marty Morgan as the moment he had his epiphany.
"I was doing a wrestling round with Marty Morgan the other day, just wrestling, and he was driving me crazy to the point that right before it ended, I can honestly say, I pushed him off me and I punched him in the stomach, hard. Like hard-hard. It was right before the round ended; I punched him and said,`Dude, I'm sorry,' and he started laughing like a Viking.
"He (Morgan) said, `It's about time you did that. That's what you're supposed to do. You're supposed to do that. If we're doing a round of wrestling, and I'm wrestling you, wearing you out, you've gotta do whatever it takes to win. If you've gotta punch me in the stomach, you've gotta punch me in the stomach. RAAAWWWWRRR!
(Note: yes, Barry actually roared like an angry Viking during our interview. It was awesome.)
"It's gotten to the point where it's days upon days of being in training where at some point in time, I just start thinking I'm gonna high kicking everyone unconscious and then it will stop. You'll never submit me again if I poke your eye out and I bite your ear; you'll stop submitting me then. That's the mentality they like, man. That's what he's looking for. He's not trying to teach me wrestling as much as he's trying to teach me to not give a shit and hurt people, and it's really a different feeling."
Critics have often looked at Barry as lacking that feeling, missing the killer instinct necessary to put away an opponent when they're in danger. He was criticized for not putting away Mirko Cro Cop at UFC 115 in Vancouver last summer, people wondering if he gave his boyhood idol too much respect in the cage. Barry's even questioned himself at times, admitting that he never understood that the willingness to put someone away when they were hurt, to attack someone at their weakest point, was part of the package.
"That's the mentality that these guys have. I knew that was a part of fighting, but I guess I never really comprehended or grasped it like that," admitted Barry. "I never noticed that I [lacked a true killer instinct] I never knew until I got out here and started [training with these guys] that yeah, I'm the kind of guy who would sit there and say, `Cheick Kongo just had an extensive back surgery, so when the fight starts, I'll just stay away from his back.' Which is weird; I never knew I was that kind of guy. You just had a root canal? I won't hit you on the left side of your mouth."
Working with Morgan and the big boys at DeathClutch have helped him change those thoughts.
"Now, Cheick Kongo just had back surgery? I'm going to look for a scar, and I'm going to find it and bite it. I'm going to pick him up and do the backbreaker from WWF and I'm going to try to finish this dude to the point that he's never going to want to fight again ever. That's just the mentality that these guys have, and they mean it. Really, when it comes down to it, it makes the fight less intimidating.
"If it came down to it, he would do the same to me; they all would. If they knew any better, they all would. They would get in the ring and try to hit me in the head so I could never stand up again. If they knew any better they would because if they don't, I'm gonna do it to them. If I don't, I'm going to do it to you the next time we fight. I'm going to kick you in the head and it's going to be over with. That's going to be bad news; bad things are going to come from that and everybody knows that, except for Joey Beltran."
Barry lets out a long torrent of laughter at the mention of his last opponent and the memory of his last fight.
Beltran took everything Barry had to offer and kept coming forward. Despite getting the win, Barry says he spent a number of sleepless nights trying to come to grips with his opponent's performance.
"Out of every fight that I've ever had in my entire life — kickboxing, amateur, pro, everything that I've ever done, all my MMA fights - I've never been so baffled before in my entire life. I've never gone home after a fight and stayed awake for a week because I couldn't figure that riddle out. I just had to sum it up that he literally is a zombie and that's just why. That's the only thing that made me content; Joey Beltran is the walking dead, period."
Having discovered his killer instinct and developed a great deal since that fight, Barry is more than ready for whatever Kongo has to offer on Sunday night. But could he take the same kind of beating he doled out to Beltran in January?
"I don't think I want to be that tough," Barry says with a snicker. "That guy can take some punishment."