BRISBANE, Australia – Pat Barry didn’t want to fly to Australia for UFC Fight Night 33. But he did make the trip to Brisbane, and it wasn’t so bad, after all.
The only thing, he jokes, is that he’s stuck Down Under for good.
“I called home and told (my girlfriend) Rose (Namajunas) that I’m here, everything’s fine, but now, we live in Australia because I can’t go home,” Barry (8-6 MMA, 5-6 UFC) said. “No more airplanes.”
The UFC heavyweight, who meets Soa Palelei (19-3 MMA, 1-1 UFC) on the FOX Sports 1-televised main card of Saturday’s event, is serious when he says he isn’t OK with cramming himself into a pressurized cabin thousands of feet above the ground, whether it’s for 15 minutes or 14 hours.
The latter is how long it took him to fly from San Francisco to Brisbane. Luckily, though, he had a distraction during the trip.
Or a crucible, depending on how you look at it.
“I sat next to – you ready for this one? – a 19-year-old Mormon who was on a mission,” Barry said. “[He] asked me, do I remember when I gave up on God?”
The inquiry was just too ripe for the religiously skeptical Barry to resist having a little fun with his seat-mate, who he said was with 12 other missionaries on a two-year trip to the Polynesian island of Tonga.
“I figured he was a Mormon, he’s 19, he hasn’t had that much life experience,” Barry said. “(I told him), ‘I figure, I don’t know, as soon as my husband told me that I should stop.’
“He was like, ‘Really?’ I’m like, ‘Yeah! That’s what it was.’”
And suddenly, Barry said, the conversation became a one-sided one.
“I didn’t let it go,” he said. “(I thought), ‘We’re going to talk about this, sir. We’re going to find this answer and come to a conclusion.’ Honestly, I don’t know what happened, because by the time we landed, he didn’t really talk to me that much any more.”
That’s not to say the 34-year-old Barry is adverse to the topic of faith. He just doesn’t give it that much thought, and he isn’t seeking answers in a church.
“I’m on whoever’s side is winning,” he joked. “That’s where I go.”
Barry’s journey in the heavyweight division has taken him both high and low. In 11 UFC appearances, he’s bounced between wins and losses, unable to build the type of momentum that might lead to a title shot.
In his previous outing at UFC 161, he took a punch from Shawn Jordan that may or may not have included a poke to the eye, which sent him back to the drawing board yet again after a TKO of Shane del Rosario at The Ultimate Fighter 16 Finale.
While his affable personality and crowd-pleasing style has kept him employed, his goal is to break out of his current cycle.
“Two wins in a row – that’s the goal,” Barry laughed. “A year from now, we’re getting at least two in a row. Not this whole (pattern of ups and downs). This is getting lame. This is whack. Two wins is a goal.”
Palelei could be one-half of that achievement if Barry is able to earn a win on Saturday night at Brisbane Event Centre. Both fighters are heavy-handed and like to trade leather, though Barry said his opponent is also a threat on the ground.
Barry praised Palelei for fighting through a rib injury en route to his first UFC win in his return to the promotion after a six-year absence.
That, however, wasn’t his initial memory of the Australian fighter, whom he met not long ago during a trip to Canada.
“I knew [Palelei] was, like, [6-foot-5], and 900 pounds, and he has the voice of Optimus Prime,” Barry joked.
For the latest on UFC Fight Night 33, stay tuned to the UFC Rumors section of the site.