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Bryan Barberena is introduced prior to facing Makhmud Muradov of Tajikistan in their middleweight fight during the UFC Fight Night at The O2 Arena on July 22, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
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Bryan Barberena: You Have To Walk Before You Run

UFC Middleweight Bryan Barberena Is Thrilled To Showcase The Improvements He’s Made In His Game When He Faces Gerald Meerschaert At UFC Fight Night: Tuivasa vs Tybura

Bryan Barberena’s overalls should be a dead giveaway.

He’s a fighter’s fighter. He loves to scrap and he’s as tough as a two-dollar steak. Those two traits alone have helped Barberena have a successful UFC career that will reach the decade mark in December.

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Not to mention that the strength of schedule on Barberena’s UFC resume is no joke. He’s fought Warlley Alves, Colby Covington, Leon Edwards, Vicente Luque, Randy Brown, Matt Brown, Robbie Lawler, Rafael Dos Anjos, and Gunnar Nelson. With a win over Gerald Meerschaert this weekend, he will have a win in three different weight classes (lightweight, welterweight, middleweight) – that’s quite a feat.

Bryan Barberena poses on the scale during the UFC Fight Night ceremonial weigh-in at The O2 Arena on July 21, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
Bryan Barberena poses on the scale during the UFC Fight Night ceremonial weigh-in at The O2 Arena on July 21, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

But the 34-year-old is confident that his career is far from over. Since his last fight in July of 2023, he opened up his own gym and started doing cross training with other gyms. Those sessions, combined with ample time off, allowed Barberena to work on what he wanted to work on and truly make sure the best version of himself was stepping into that Octagon versus Meerschaert.

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“I’ve had some exciting fights with some great people,” Barberena told UFC.com. “Some veterans and former champions. I don’t really put anybody on a pedestal or let it get to me mentally. There are definitely fights I enjoy more than others because I know what they bring to the table and the opportunity that’s available. I think there have been great moments in my career and I’m looking forward to having a lot more.”

To have more big moments, Barberena needs to get back in the win column. He’s on a three-fight skid, and his last loss, which came in his UFC middleweight debut, made him take some time off to level up.

“After this last one it was like, ‘OK, maybe we need to take a step back,’” Barberena said. “Definitely refocus, work on improving, getting better, and really taking the next step. I moved up to 185 pounds the last fight and I’m still at 185 pounds. I definitely wanted to build more into the weight class and get a better feel for it.

“I think I did that in the off time. I think I really got a lot better.”

Bryan Barberena poses for a portrait during a UFC photo session on July 19, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC)
Bryan Barberena poses for a portrait during a UFC photo session on July 19, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC)

The time off has built anticipation for Barberena, who loves to be active and step into the Octagon as much as possible. He missed the feeling of competing and the roar of the crowd, and at the UFC APEX it won’t be quite the same, but it’ll have to do.

“I’m just going to be excited to get in there,” Barberena said. “I’m excited to show the experience I’ve gained and my evolution. That’s what I’m going to do.

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“We’re going to get this win. That’s first and most important – and in exciting fashion.”

The matchup between Barberena and Meerschaert is an interesting one, with Barberena excelling in standup fights and Meerschaert owning the record for the most submission wins in middleweight history.

Bryan Barberena has his hands wrapped prior to his fight during the UFC 286 event at The O2 Arena on March 18, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC)
Bryan Barberena has his hands wrapped prior to his fight during the UFC 286 event at The O2 Arena on March 18, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC)

Barberena knows that Meerschaert is going to look to get the fight to the canvas, but he’s not concerned with what “GM3” is looking to do; he’s just locked in on executing his gameplan as best as possible.

“It’s not just about what he’s going to do, it’s also about what I’m going to do,” Barberena said. “I’m really more focused on implementing my gameplan on him. not following his.”

The cerebral vs brawl approach is always a fine line for a guy like Barberena, who has five Fight of the Night awards to his name. He loves a good scrap and he’s tough as nails, but by executing his gameplan he knows he will give himself the best shot at beating Meerschaert.

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And if it turns into a brawl, then so be it.

“You got to walk before you can run,” Barberena said with a smile. “And definitely Saturday night, I’m ready to get in there and run all my stuff.”

UFC Fight Night: Tuivasa vs Tybura took place live from UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada on March 16, 2024. See the final Prelims and Main Card Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass