UFC Welterweight Bryan Barberena: “I Feel Sorry for Whoever is in Front of Me”

Bryan Barberena UFC
Bryan Barberena Credit: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com

Bryan Barberena is getting closer and closer to his UFC return — and plans on reminding us why his nickname is ‘Bam Bam’

We can play coy and try to be as politically correct as possible, but lets face it, not all fighters are created equal. Some are just tougher outs than others; as in life, people excel at different things. Such is the case in MMA. Case in point: Bryan Barberena.

Bryan ‘Bam Bam’ Barberena is a grizzled UFC veteran, and one of the hardest outs in the welterweight division. Despite an up and down 2017 that saw ‘Bam Bam’ go 1-1, and later have foot surgery, he stayed positive throughout. Now he feels sorry for the guy he gets to take his frustrations out on in his Octagon return.

Cageside Press had a chance to speak with Barberena about rehabbing his injury, training at the MMA Lab, and more.

Anyone who has ever undergone surgery that required physical rehabilitation can appreciate the amount of time and effort that must go into rehabbing a foot. Barberena has been putting in the work, inching back to full strength “I’m getting there, I’m not 100% yet” said Barberena of the recovery process.

“I’m still doing physical therapy, but every day is a win, everyday I’m getting stronger and better. I just can’t wait to get back in the cage,” he continued, adding “that last fight left a bad taste in my mouth.”

The fight ‘Bam Bam’ is referring to is his decision loss to Leon Edwards at UFC Fight Night 115 from September of last year. Despite the unpleasant memory of that night, Barberena has a very real assessment of how the fight went. “It was fair,” said Baberena regarding the outcome of the fight.

“It was up to the third round, he [Edwards] won the first, I won the second. He won the first not by much, neither of us did much in the first I guess. I dropped him in the second, almost finished him, it went to the third and he [Edwards] got a takedown and that was pretty much it. I stood up and hit him with some punches but there wasn’t enough time.”

It’s a breath of fresh air when a fighter can give an honest assessment of a fight he came out on the losing end of. That’s exactly what ‘Bam Bam’ was able to do right there.

Now that the foot is healing up, a return date for ‘Bam Bam’ is the next concern. “Right now I’m shooting for June or July,” Barberena told us.

“Recovery is going good, my foot is stronger, everyday I’m getting closer to 100%. I’m hoping for June or July, and the person who matches up with me shouldn’t be looking forward to it.”

Time will tell who the matchmakers decide to pair Barberena with. But one thing is for sure, ‘Bam Bam’ will be spending his training camps at the MMA Lab in Glendale, Arizona, where he has been training his entire UFC run.

“At the Lab we are attracted to that family, that team atmosphere. Everybody there is great and we’re not just there for ourselves. We’re there to help make each other better and help each other’s dreams come true,” said Barberena on the culture at the MMA Lab.

‘Bam Bam’ would add, “They [the MMA Lab] just opened a brand-new gym, bigger, nicer, super cool. Anybody in the Phoenix or Glendale area go check it out.”

The MMA Lab produces some of the grittiest fighters out there, that quite honestly don’t get the credit they deserve. Barberena, Drakkar Klose, and Sean O’Malley are among them. And although he no longer trains at the Lab, it’s fair to point out, undefeated light heavyweight fighter Jordan Johnson honed the foundation of his MMA base in the very walls of the Lab.

There’s gyms you go-to to get in shape, and then there’s gyms you go to for fight camp. So now that ‘Bam Bam’ and family have relocated to Tennessee, what’s the plain for his stay in shape gym?

“Shield Systems Academy in Knoxville, Tennessee is going to be taking care of me,” said Barberena. “There are some really good people there and I’m still going to be doing my fight camps at the [MMA] Lab remember.”

We do remember. And as soon as Bryan Barberena makes his next walk to the Octagon,  everyone who forgot why they call him ‘Bam Bam’ will be reminded of that as well.

“I feel sorry for whoever is in front of me [in my next fight]. People think I’m a good grappler, but I really am more of a striker. I’m going to knock whoever out.” Barberena assured us.

For now ‘Bam Bam’ will need to rest up. Yet the welterweight division needs the guys like him. Guys that keep the train moving, guys that bring excitement. Hopefully fans get to see this MMA Lab product back inside the Octagon before International Fight Week, if that’s not wishful thinking.