The final installment of the 2019 summer season of Dana White’s Contender Series takes place on Tuesday night as 10 more fighters will look to make their fighting dreams come true.
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One of those fighters is New England regional staple Peter Barrett, who will face the unbeaten Yoo Sang-Hoon at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada.
As the case always is when fighting on the Contender Series, Barrett will have a difficult fight on his hands with the South Korean standout. However, Barrett has been facing his toughest opponent, constantly, over the last couple of years — himself.
Two years ago, the 33-year-old fighter from Massachusetts had his life turned upside down. In a span of two months, Barrett lost two of the most important people in his life and it left him in a very dark place. Barrett had hoped fighting would be the answer to combating his demons — even taking a fight against TJ Brown at Cage Titans 36, who also fights Tuesday Night on the Contender Series against a teammate of Barrett’s, Dylan Lockard. In hindsight, Barrett, despite losing the fight via submission in the third round, looks at it as the beginning of coming out of his self battle on the other side.
“My younger brother passed away from an accidental overdose in July 2017, and my dad passed away two months later,” Barrett explained to The Body Lock. “It spun me in a really dark place, a lot of depression, a lot of self-medicating, while still trying to fight. I took the fight with TJ Brown on the heels of my dad passing thinking that fighting would be what pulled me through it. I wasn’t there mentally or physically.
“It took him, on one of my worst days, I battled that kid for three rounds before he got me in a head and arm (choke). I even knocked him out in the first round and then knocked him back in. If they want to go tit for tat, the kid that is fighting right before me is someone that I battled for three rounds on my worst day, and he’s had nothing but up and up since that day.”
Barrett would win his next fight via a first-round rear-naked choke submission in April 2018 before being submitted by Connor Barry at Cage Titans 39 two months later. “Slippery Pete” would end up not competing for a little under a year after having two fights fall through at the end of 2018 at the last minute. Barrett would come back in June of this year against New England prospect Zach DeSabatino at Cage Titans, finishing his opponent via strikes to set himself up for the opportunity on Tuesday night.
To say Barrett is ready to show the world what he is capable of is an understatement.
“Everything is right where it needs to be,” Barrett said. “It will be a minimal weight cut, all of my training has been awesome, everything has gone perfectly. My striking is on point, my grappling is on point, my wrestling’s on point, my elbows are extra sharp, my knees are extra vicious and I’m coming in here as close to 100-percent as I’ve ever been for a fight.”
Standing across the cage from Barrett will be 29-year-old Yoo Sang-Hoon who will make his US debut on Tuesday night. “The Korean Assassin” has spent the majority of his pro career fighting for South Korean promotion Angel’s Fighting and brings a perfect 5-0 record to Las Vegas. This will be Yoo’s first fight in over a year since defeating Brazilian fighter Ítalo da Silva Gonçalves via second-round TKO last July at Angel’s Fighting 7.
Despite his opponent’s international competitive resume, Barrett is well prepared for Tuesday night.
“His most recent three fights are all on YouTube so I did my homework,” Barrett explained. “I watch the fights and then I get an idea of what I want to do. Then I talk to my manager, my coaches, to see what they saw and make sure we’re seeing the same things and formulate a game plan from there. Even my boxing coach — I’m one of his only MMA guys — he’s a very reputable boxing coach and trainer, I got him on some of the film and he was even seeing the same things that we were seeing. So we’re all in line with what we’re going to do and how we’re going to approach this fight.
“I would say expect fireworks.”
While picking up a victory over an unbeaten South Korean prospect will add a win to the resume of Barrett, it will, admittedly, not make him very happy. As is the goal for all fighters competing on the Contender Series, coming away with a contract is the goal. Even if Barrett accomplishes that feat, that still won’t be enough to make him happy.
Barrett plans to leave a terrifying impression on Dana White and the UFC matchmakers, get a contract, and have his UFC debut date booked for his home state of Massachusetts.
“I’m gonna take this kid’s head and put it in Dana’s lap and make a strong argument for a contract,” Barrett exclaimed. “A lot of people say, ‘Why do you deserve a contract?’, and I’ll tell you right now, I don’t deserve s**t. I’m gonna go in there and earn it in 15 minutes if it takes me that long. The only way I leave the arena happy is after putting that kid’s head in Dana’s lap, getting a contract in my hand and a promise to fight on the Oct. 18 card in Boston.”
“Slippery Pete’s” fighting career trajectory was off to an impeccable start, eight wins, seven of those were victories that the judges didn’t have to partake in. After dealing with the sadness and darkness that 2017 brought upon him and his family, Barrett continues the fight in and out of the cage, and plans to hear the magical words from Dana White on Tuesday night, “Welcome to the UFC.”
“It’s gonna mean the world,” Barrett said. “It’s going to be the last 10 years of my life paying off. I was — from 1-0 to 8-0 — exactly what the Contender Series was looking for but they were invested in The Ultimate Fighter. Now that I’m 10-3, I’m a little bit older, I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to go out there and show them that I’m not someone to be overlooked.
“I’ve faced some adversity in my personal life and the cage that I’ve always been open with — battling through depression after losing my dad and brother was a big thing that lit a fire under my ass. No matter what this kid brings across the cage from me, I’ve been through worse and came out the other side as a stronger human.”
Of course, the MMA community can be a cesspool of negativity. For casual fans of a “What have you done for me lately?” type sport like mixed martial arts, they may look at Barrett’s 2-3 record in his last five fights and wonder why he is getting this opportunity. Barrett is not only OK with that, but he also welcomes it.
“I tell them to go jump on YouTube and look at my last fight with Zach DiSabatino,” Barrett said. “He’s a regular contender in the region — from being an undefeated amateur to a, now, 5-2 pro — and I walked through that kid like a wet paper bag. That’s the type of performance everyone is going to see on Tuesday night. He was a warmup fight and it let me know that I’m in the right place mentally, physically, spiritually to go out there and perform the way I know I can.
“I welcome the criticism, that’s fine. They’ll see what happens on Tuesday night and I let everybody know that I’m not someone to be overlooked.”
Peter Barrett has been through the wringer with his personal and professional life, and has been able to overcome the adversity life has thrown his way. Barrett believes Tuesday night will be his time to shine and aims to prove that he is exactly what the UFC is looking for — not just with his exciting style in the cage.
“I’m a brand, I market myself, I run myself as a business,” Barrett said. “You just can’t get in this game anymore and just fight and think things will happen. You’ve got to be vocal, you have to know how to run your stuff, you’re a brand. You have to sell yourself and I think that’s another thing Dana’s looking for. He’s gonna put me in front of that camera and I’m gonna chop it up with that cute little blonde that’s there and we’re gonna have a great interview after that fight. I’m gonna talk straight to Dana through that camera and I’m gonna show him that I’m the full package.”