Heavyweight Chris Barnett was going through some serious personal turmoil ahead of his UFC Vegas 51 fight with Martin Buday in April. As the 36-year-old fighter told BJPenn.com, he received a phone call about his ailing wife about 30 hours before the fight, with doctors telling him he “needed to make a decision.”
“I don’t know if you know but my wife had passed away. They called me 30 hours before the Buday fight saying I needed to make a decision. I was like, ‘huh, what do you mean?’ When I left she was fine and now this is popping up.
“With all that going on that camp wasn’t a camp man. She went to the hospital on February 8 and was in the hospital until May 10. Training wise I would get maybe a good two hours in a day and then I was in the hospital the entire time. It was one of those things, a lot of fighters (would’ve pulled out).”
Barnett’s wife, who passed on in May, had been dealing with encephalitis and was at the hospital at the time. He decided to push through with the Buday fight, where he lost via technical decision after being unable to continue from an inadvertent elbow strike to the back of the head.
But he did get an unexpected phone call from Dana White himself, which for him was a huge deal.
“Dana White also called me and cussed me out. He was like ‘dude, why would you take (the fight?),’” Barnett recalled. “I told him I didn’t want to but I also understand I see people pull out and I see what y’all say.
“Even with something of that magnitude, I shouldn’t have fought, because I know I wasn’t getting the training. But I signed that contract.
“Once we sign that contract, life is going to happen and it is what it is, I hate to say it like that but that’s what a lot of outside people look at. You sign the contract, and unless you get hurt they don’t care, that’s technically what the contract says.”
Barnett remains grateful for the small gesture from the UFC boss.
“Dana is always invited to the BBQ because he called me, he didn’t have to,” Barnett said. “He called me and was like ‘why, are you alright? Let me know if you need anything’ type of thing. He knows I’m not the type of person to ask for anything but he still did stuff on the outside.
“A lot of times when fighters talk about pay and all this other stuff. I just don’t understand because they take care of us... well, they take care of me. Win, lose or draw, he didn’t have to make that phone call, and he did.
“He went through a couple of channels to find me and get ahold of me, so that right there adds so much more to it. Like ‘damn, he cares.’”
Barnett (22-8) returns to action this weekend at UFC 279 against Chris Collier at the prelims.