In 2021, long-time underground fan favorite, Chris Barnett, joined the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Heavyweight division ranks.
A true ball of energy wherever he goes, “Huggy Bear” has been there and done that in combat sports with mixed martial arts (MMA), boxing, kickboxing and grappling contests all under his belt. From Abu Dhabi to Japan, South Korea to Pensacola, Fla., there hasn’t been any global discrimination along the way.
A veteran of 29 fights (22-7), Barnett’s ultimate goal is to see himself in those black and gold UFC Venum shorts with the belt around his waist. Fresh off a stunning spinning wheel kick knockout over Gian Villante in Nov. 2021 (watch highlights), he’s hoping to maybe sneak his way around the heap to get into that ever-circulating mix atop the weight class.
“I think I picked the wrong time not to be at the top because you could be [ranked] 15th right now, fighting one of those [top] guys and be No. 2,” Barnett told MMAMania.com. “Stipe [Miocic], big homie. I love me some Stipe. It’s like he took that full-time fireman job and now I ain’t seen him fight, man.
“I’m on record saying I’m cool with the lawn chair — just sitting back and watching them kill each other over their throne,” he continued. “But again with this camp, me doing it right, it’s brought back so much. Like hey, I don’t want to say this is the last run but we gonna make this a good one, that type of thing. And how I feel during these camps, how sparring’s going, how everything’s just going, there’s no reason I can’t throw that grappling hook up there and start climbing slowly to get to that throne. So I’ll let them all fight on this side of the mountain, I’m going around this way, little suckas (laughs).”
Barnett, 35, had his promotional debut play out less than ideally on short notice against a fellow seasoned vet, “Big” Ben Rothwell. Succumbing to a second round guillotine submission loss, Barnett feels he’s now made proper adjustments with proper degrees of prep time.
At UFC Vegas 51 on April 16, 2022, in Las Vegas, Nevada, Barnett looks for some redemption when facing Martin Buday in what will be his 30th walk to compete in an MMA enclosure.
“If you look at Martin Buday, it’s almost like a young Ben Rothwell,” he said. “If you look at how he (Rothwell) fights, how he moves, he’s a ground guy but stands up more. Same like Martin. Martin is a brown belt in jiu-jitsu but if you look at all his fights, he stands you up. He beats you up and then gets you to the ground and anaconda’s you. Squeezes the hell out of you up top then eats you later. So that’s another thing that I like about him.
“Then I’m in the same atmosphere but no nerves this time,” Barnett added. “I’m gonna be comfortable. I’m sure he fought there (in the UFC APEX), too. So I’m looking at it more as I gotta get some get-back. I have some animosity towards this guy already.”