Before he ever began the kickboxing training that would ultimately land him in the UFC, Barry was a fan of the sport. He and his brother spent time watching K-1 events, marveling at the technical striking precision displayed by the top kickboxers in the world. At the top of Barry’s list of favorite fighters was Filipovic, a Croatian striking machine with a penchant for violent head kicks.
“This was a guy that I idolized. When I started training, he was still one of my top five favorites, and he still is,” Barry says. “He’s one of the top five kickboxers on earth. He’s the sole reason there are guys like me in MMA today. I put the blame on him. He caused the rest of us to evolve.”
For Barry, who meets Filipovic in the co-main event of Saturday’s UFC 115 card in Vancouver, he’s living a dream come true. He has lived the kind of hard-knock life that causes a man to truly appreciate what he’s been given. He stood on the brink of financial ruin before his fight with Antoni Hardonk last October, and the $120,000 in bonus money he earned that night didn’t just solidify his shaky financial situation — it also gave him the confidence to continue pursuing the dream planted in his heart when he watched Filipovic mow through competition in K-1 and PRIDE years earlier.
On Saturday night he’ll be standing across the cage from a living legend of the sport, a fighter who shaped Barry’s early career as a professional kickboxer and mixed martial artist. It’s difficult for Barry to figure out where the idol worship ends and the preparation for his opponent begins.
“It’s like the time I met Chuck Liddell. I mean, I nearly passed out,” Barry says. “These guys are heroes to me because I’m still a fan of the sport myself. I watch these guys, I hear about these guys, I follow these guys and now I actually get to meet them. This is a childhood dream come true. It’s amazing.”