Las Vegas, NV — Darian Weeks is not the name Bryan Barberena expected to be fighting at UFC Vegas 44 this weekend.
Barberena (15-8) had been paired up with Matt “The Immortal” Brown, a legendary name in the welterweight division at this point. But with Brown forced out due to COVID-19, Barberena made the flight to Las Vegas not knowing who he’d be fighting this Saturday.
Upon losing the Brown fight, Barberena admitted during Wednesday’s media day, he was “definitely crushed in a sense. Right away, my initial reaction was kind of just like, heart just dropped, everything felt at a standstill.” The Tennessee-born fighter was actually playing video games, streaming live, when he heard the news— from a fan in the accompanying chat, who informed him that Brown had been forced out of the fight.
“I was just like kind of stunned at first. I’d say it lasted probably like 30 minutes though. You’ve got to get that mindset back right.” Barberena spoke with UFC matchmaker Sean Shelby, who informed the fighter that he was working on finding a replacement for Brown. “So right away I was like ‘okay, well it’s done, there’s nothing I can do about it, let’s refocus, we’ve still got work to do.” Then it was on to finishing the final week of fight camp, preparing for the weight cut, and everything else — all without knowing who he’d be fighting.
“I had no idea who I was going to fight,” Barberena admitted. “I told [Sean Shelby], I said ‘get anybody. I don’t care. Get anybody.’ I said ‘I am fighting next Saturday,’ and [Shelby] said ‘okay. I will find somebody, you will have somebody,’ and I got on a plane not knowing who I was going to fight this week. Got here, still did not know. It didn’t really matter, because I’m ready to fight, and I’m ready to fight anybody.”
The name wound up being the undefeated Darian Weeks, who will make his UFC debut in the fight. The pair face off on the UFC Vegas 44 main card this Saturday.
Watch the full UFC Vegas 44 media day appearance from Bryan Barberena above. The event takes place this Saturday, December 4, 2021 at the Apex in Las Vegas. More coverage from Wednesday’s media day can be found below.