New England has been an MMA region on fire in 2020.
The region’s success has not just been felt on the highest level of the sport — where bantamweight contender Rob Font just starched former title challenger Marlon Moraes and the surging Calvin Kattar prepares to take on former featherweight kingpin Max Holloway — but on the regional level, as well.
CES returned in a big way amid the COVID-19 pandemic, providing New England fighters a platform to compete in an otherwise frustrating year. Those prospects had a good year; the record of fighters featured in this New England’s Next series is a combined 7-1.
This week, MMA-Prospects delves into a staple of the region, 25-year-old welterweight prospect Connor Barry (6-3).
Barry, who has fought for local promotions CES MMA and Cage Titans, is from Massachusetts. A college graduate of UMass-Lowell, Barry was one of eight children.
In that crowded New England home, MMA wasn’t on the mind of young Barry. Instead, a different much-loved sport in the city of Boston was the household favorite.
“Hockey was the sport,” Barry told MMA-Prospects. “When I was little, it was all hockey with my dad.”
Then, as many fighters and fight fans can attest, a VHS changed everything.
“My uncle bought us a ‘Boston’s Best Brawls’ video,” recalled Barry. “That was my introduction to fighting. [We] lived in a Catholic household — very conservative; fighting wasn’t in the house — so that VHS totally hooked me.”
The man nicknamed “Bare Knuckle” stated it was either sports or the Catholic channel on the Barry home television, a seemingly easy choice for the eight children. While his uncle’s tape sparked the fighting dream in Barry, it was Barry’s brother that really opened his eyes to the world of Mixed Martial Arts.
“My brother got into it before me,” Barry explained. “He learned stuff on YouTube.”
Quickly, the brothers tried to put their newfound combat knowledge to the test.
“Being from a big family like that, we kicked the shit out of each other every day,” Barry continued. “It forced me to get better, or, you know, I’d get my ass whooped.”
Soon enough, Barry was pursuing an MMA career. Too soon, in fact.
When he was just 17, Barry attempted to use his brother’s ID in order to be legally permitted to compete in a local amateur fight.
“Luckily for me, it fell through. Probably would have been suspended for a while,” Barry laughed.
Fast forward to 2020.
Connor Barry stands with a 6-3 professional record — one his manager, New England Cartel leader Tyson Chartier, believes should be more favorable to Barry — and a 5-1 amateur record, to boot.
“In my head, he is a deceptive 6-3,” Chartier told MMA-Prospects.
“He dominated [Taylor] Trahan, [but] hit the back of his head in transition, so [the fight was ruled] a DQ loss. It’s a win, in my opinion. That fight was all but finished,” argued Chartier.
“Look at the Joe Joe [Giannetti] fight,” Chartier continued. “Connor won the first two rounds, he was riding out the third in a non-threatening triangle choke, and the ref made a poor decision stopping that fight due to strikes. It was laughable. Really dig into it. [Barry] is 8-1 and only 25. I think moving him up to 170 is going to pay huge dividends moving forward.”
Barry had spent much of his career as a lightweight, but recently made the move to 170, a division he and Chartier believe will better suit him going forward. Standing 6’2″ and with a 74″ reach, Barry won’t be undersized at welterweight.
Although unable to compete in 2020 in an MMA bout, the Mass. native did compete in the Mata Leon Invitational, a local Brazilian jiu jitsu tournament. After the event, Barry walked away as the Absolute champion, a distinction that means he won an open-weight bracket.
Although he was recently awarded his black belt in BJJ and became champion for Mata Leon, it isn’t his grappling skill that “Bare Knuckle” Barry would consider his best attribute. Much like his nickname suggests, Barry’s self-identified edge is his mental toughness.
“It’s a variety. You can’t have one strength,” said Barry. “I work on everything, even the psychology of it: the winning mindset. I think a big thing is the ability to not be broken mentally. You need to be able to get beat up in the gym and not beat yourself up about it. Mentality is my biggest attribute.”
As is the same with many prospects in the world today, Barry is “dying to fight,” but is using this forced time off to better himself.
In 2021, Connor Barry sees himself in the UFC.
“By the end of 2021, I’ll be in the UFC or Bellator. I am putting in the work, I deserve this.”