If you're going to lose in the UFC, it probably helps to do it memorably. Bad publicity is still publicity, right?
Heavyweights Pat Barry and Christian Morecraft, who open Friday's FX-televised UFC card at Bridgestone Arena, know that feeling. And both have their sights set on a return to the win column, which almost always is good publicity in the cutthroat world of MMA.
Barry (6-4, 3-4 UFC) has lost three of his last four fights and two in a row — putting him in typically critical territory against Morecraft (7-2, 1-2 UFC) on Friday.
Three straight losses often earn UFC fighters a pink slip. But Barry's losses have been memorable: a fight against his idol, Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic in which he broke his hand early and later was submitted in a storybook turnaround by his opponent; his last time out, a loss to Stefan Struve, the tallest fighter in the UFC, who towered over Barry by a full foot; and last June, a for-the-ages comeback by Cheick Kongo, who was knocked out on his feet but survived only to knock Barry out cold moments later.
Barry said he'll always bring exciting fights because his job is a step beyond just being a fighter.
"The sport has evolved to where it's not just about fighting anymore," Barry told The City Paper on Wednesday after a workout at the Nashville Mixed Martial Arts Academy. "We're athletes first, but we're also entertainers. We've got to be able to fight and we've got to be able to perform.
“Along with being an athlete and a fighter, I'm also a fan and I know what I like to see. I don't get in there just to make people go 'Oooooh!' and that's it — but that is a part of it. We all fight for ourselves, but part of what we want is to please the crowd. I come in to put on a show. I'm killin' people or I'm gettin' killed. I'm going to lose better than anybody if I do."
Morecraft also is coming off a spectacular loss — a knockout against Barry buddy Matt Mitrione in June in which Mitrione hit him, dropped him and had turned around to walk back to his corner before Morecraft even hit the canvas.
After a layoff of seven months, Morecraft said he's excited to be back. But in terms of preparing for Barry, a renowned kickboxer, the game plan is simple.
"How do you get ready to get kicked by Pat Barry? You try to avoid it? That makes two of us," Morecraft said. "I think it would be a dumb decision to stand in front of Pat Barry and let him kick me in the leg. It's obvious to stay away from it and execute my game plan. If I stand in front of him, of course he's going to kick the (crap) out of my leg and pound my legs up."
During Wednesday’s open workout session, Morecraft found Barry hopping into one of his interviews — and the two were playful with each other and plenty friendly. But Morecraft said that can't get in the way on Friday — he knows a win over Barry would be a big notch on his belt.
"Pat Barry's a big name. Everyone loves Pat Barry — I love him myself," Morecraft said. "A win over Pat Barry is going to be huge in my win column, and I can't wait to go out there and get it and execute, and be on top of my A-game on Friday night. Two losses in the UFC isn't good at all. Two losses anywhere isn't good. You want to come off a loss with a win. So it's going to be a big night for me."