MMA Lab’s John Crouch Discusses Bryan Barberena’s “Rewarding” UFC Debut, Lightweight Has Done “Everything Possible” to be Top Tier Fighter
By Kelsey Mowatt
John Crouch has helped guide athletes like Benson Henderson to the highest achievements in MMA, but the renowned coach says watching his fighters score their first UFC victory, remains something uniquely special.
Recently Crouch helped corner the MMA Lab’s Bryan Barberena to a win over Joe Ellenberger at UFC on FOX 13, in what was the lightweight’s Octagon debut. The bout marked Barberena’s 12 professional fight, after he transitioned into the pro ranks back in 2009.
“Honestly, it’s the most rewarding thing…” Crouch said on a recent episode of Full Contact Fighter Radio, while discussing what it means to see one of the Glendale gym’s fighters win their first UFC bout. “The difference is, when I was with Benson, and we won the championship there, Ben was with me from the beginning too. We started together, so, Ben is someone who came up. So that’s super special.”
“But someone like Bryan, he changed his life around to train with us,” Crouch furthered about Barberena, who is originally from Minnesota. “He walked in and told me he was a 85’er, and I was like, ‘yeah, probably 55’er’. He started training, he liked it, quit his job, moved his family…his wife took a different job so that she could support him. He really has done everything possible he could do, to be as good as he can be.”
The 25 year-old Barberena was called to the UFC after putting together a six fight win streak, which included four TKO stoppages and one, submission victory.
“And that means a lot to me,” added Crouch. “Somebody who invests in the process, puts their heart into it, and there’s nothing more rewarding than that coming to fruition.
After dropping the first round to Ellenberger at UFC on FOX 13, Barberena went on to stop the accomplished wrestler in round three.
“I thought Bryan was going to win the whole time,” Crouch said, while reflecting on Barberena’s performance. “I’m not surprised. He’s a very tough kid; he’s got good defensive wrestling, he’s hard to hold on the ground, and I thought it was the perfect match…”
“I like Joe, but I really liked the match-up for us,” the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt furthered. “We started slow and gave the first round away, because he started slow, but as soon as he got going it was all downhill from there. So I thought it was great. Being the first time in the UFC. I thought it was a really good performance and a good win against a really good opponent.”
With the win, Barberan extended his pro record to 10-2.