Friday, October 29, 2010

Trisha Barr Story

I went to a show put on by the NAAFS. An all women's show. Considering what I do, this was a show I had to see. I saw several really good fights and several really talented fighters. One fighter stood out to me. Trisha Barr. Trisha fought Shannon Floyd. Shannon had a size advantage and used it really well in pushing Trisha against the cage and getting takedowns. Shannon won the first round and there was a close second round that could have been scored either way. But as I wrote in my notes, I was so impressed with Trisha. On the bottom she kept looking for submissions, ways to finish the fight. I even wrote "Trisha is going to catch her in one of those". Sure enough, in round three, Trisha caught her and finished her. I was impressed with Trisha Barr the fighter. Then she did her post fight interview and I became impressed with Trisha Barr the woman. After the show on the drive home I was thinking of my love of writing and my desire to do a real story on a fighter, and knew right away Trisha was the fighter I wanted to do a story on.

A day or two after the fight I found Trisha on Facebook and first asked her to do an interview. She was all for it. Since I had opened the lines of communication I then informed her f my desire to do a story. Again, she was all for it. As luck would have it, she had been booked for another fight against Marsha May on October 22nd. Great, that means I can cover the fight as part of the story. She allowed me to come to her home, where her and her husband Ray also teach classes, to talk to her and watch the classes. So a few days before the fight, I was on my way.

Trisha had said before I got there, that their facility is just a little garage behind their house, almost as if she was telling me "don't expect to be impressed". When I got there Trisha was not yet in the garage, only her husband, three young girls and one boy were. Yes it was just what she said, a little garage. But I was actually impressed. I liked it. This was old school almost. This is what MMA was, before the rise of the UFC after Dana White and the Fertita's popularized the sport, before there was seemingly a gym that taught BJJ on every street corner, before every karate studio and dojo started teaching every other form of combat sport. Before it became glamorous. Now don't get the wrong idea. This isn't some crap dojo. Small in size, it has all the things a good school needs. All the equipment, heavy bag, mats, and of course great teachers.

Before the small first class began, Trisha showed she is good with kids, as two of the students had trouble with their belts, and she took them through the process of getting it on properly. Trisha was actually the teacher of this class, and Ray teaches the others. As she took them through the warm up, I was impressed with her ability to have to use few words to get her explanations and instructions out, and the students ability to quickly know what they were doing, as they were always focused on her. The mood was both light and serious at the same time.

As I was watching this, I remembered how Trisha said she wasn't always he polite person she is now. How she was different before religion became a big part of her life, and she became a Christian 2 years ago, a member of a Pentecostal church. She explained to me that people used to try and push religion on her but she resisted, but now she "Gives all glory to God". Now to say MMA and religion are at odds, is not at all true. There is no contradiction in being religious and being a fighter. However, that does not mean members of a church would understand or agree with a member being a fighter. I asked her what the other church members thought of her fighting, and was pleasantly surprised when she said "My pastor supports my fighting". I realized, not only is there no contradiction, but I believe her faith is actually a very big tool in her fighting career.

As the class continued I became more impressed with Trisha the teacher. She was harder on the boy in the class, because he has been with them longer and should know what he is doing more than the girls. A good trainer usually has to learn from a good trainer, so I became more interested in seeing her husband Ray teach. I learned that Trisha met Ray when she was one of his students. After some time she began helping with his kids classes I would soon see him teaching class and learn he is big on concepts and theories, and yes, he is a great teacher. But before we got to that, Trisha continued with this class. Trisha took them through many different strikes and blocks. I remembered Trisha saying she was working on improving her striking. Well, her striking looked pretty good to me. Trisha ended the class by working on some Japanese language with them, with the boy eager to answer every question he could.

As we waited for the next class to start I took the opportunity to ask Trisha about her upcoming opponent, Marsha May. She felt Marsha's striking and BJJ was good, but that her conditioning could be an issue. That made me right away think of the girl I saw her fight, Shannon Floyd. Perhaps this would have the same result. She was aware that this was a step up in opponents for her and that this would be a big test for her. She had come a long way from the girl who was so nervous for her first fight and got submitted in under a minute. She cried for a week after that fight.

The next class came. Again, a small class, one of he girls from the previous class staying for this. I asked if that was common and Trisha said "We encourage them to take as many of our classes as they can". This was a class teaching striking. Ray was teaching this class, and I was very impressed. Easy to see where Trisha got her teaching style. He too was able to teach and explain using few words. Trisha took part in the class to. I learned that the week before a fight, this is a chance for Trisha to get some training in as well. Wondering if they like the small classes, Trisha said she does, but that Ray would like bigger classes. However in this setting it allows them to be selective in who they accept.

As the night wore on I enjoyed just sitting and watching. When it was time to be serious, they were serious, when it was time for a little fun, they were fun. I knew then, that weeks earlier, when there were so many different women to choose from, I had picked the right person to want to write about. That the story of Trisha Barr is not just the story of an MMA fighter. After the final class we talked for a short while about the sport and Trisha's fighting. Wondering if it was hard for a husband to sit at the cage and watch his wife getting hit, Ray simply nodded his head to imply, that yes, it is hard. I left, even more excited to cover the fight

The day of the fight I arrived at the building. As for my question earlier when she said her Pastor supports her fighting, well that was verified by him being there. Marsha May kind of being the "hometown fighter" I was proud to be in the small group there to support Trisha. In talking with Trisha, Ray, and her little team of supporters, I was noticing Trisha seemed really calm and relaxed. But she says " I've been a nervous wreck before every one of my fights." But she continued "With experience I've gotten calmer and more relaxed prior to fights. BY the time I enter the cage, I'm ready to fight". I learned Trisha hates fighting late in the card, a problem since she was the semi main event tonight. "The longer I wait, the more time I have to feel butterflies in my stomach...... I like to get in there, fight my heart out and then relax and watch the rest of the fights". Funny thing happened. I went to cover the fights. But I actually began getting very nervous, weird for me. I couldn't write about the other fights because I was nervous. I guess in a way I think of Trisha as a friend now, and it is different watching a fight when a friend is in there.

The fights went by, some good, some not as exciting. And it was time for Trisha's fight. The crowd seemed very excited for it, although the crowd was very pro Marsha May. The game plan going in was " Keep a high left cover to avoid her right cross... work body shots to set up head shots.... maintain head movement.... don't get caught in her signature guillotine". After the introductions, it was time. They both came out ready to strike, and Trisha appeared to have hurt her with some good punches. Did Trisha realize Marsha was rocked? "I do know that I was landing punches and backing her up" Then Trisha "got over-zealous and clinched with her". Was the clinch a bad thing? "Not necessarily a bad thing in the sense that I was still dominating from the clinch landing knees to the leg's and body..... however I regret the clinch because I was winning the striking game". Trish got "careless" going for a takedown and got caught in that guillotine she wanted to avoid. After holding on as long as she could, Trisha was forced to tap. Asked what she takes away from this fight she said she needs to "continue working on submission defense, takedowns, and maintaining striking distance". Did Marsha fight as expected? "For the most part, yes..... she was a little like me..... she doesn't come out super aggressive....she circles and waits for her opening." She added, "congratulations to my opponent for overcoming and doing what she needed to do to win".

After the fight Trisha came out and talked with us. It looked as if she felt she let people down. Hardly the case. Those of us there to support her were proud. She came in fought her heart out, and simply got caught. Happens to everyone. With her blackening eye, she seemed in good spirits but obviously a little disappointed. She said "You still want to do a story on me?" Actually I did, now more than ever.

The drive home I went over things in my head. The story, how to write it, what to say, the usual things. Yes, I still did want to do a story on her. But the week leading up to this night, I realized this was becoming, not the story of Trisha Barr the MMA fighter, but Trisha Barr, the woman. I wanted to do a story on an MMA fighter, but instead I was doing a story on a woman who happens to be an MMA fighter. I firmly believe Trisha has the tools to keep improving and really become a big name fighter in this sport. I believe that, and I learned from short conversations with Trisha, belief is an important tool to making thing reality. But even if by some chance it doesn't happen, it won't make me think any less of her. Because Trisha Barr is still an inspirational woman, a woman young girls can look up to, a woman who is going to do great things in whatever she does.

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