This week on Diamond's Corner Craig sits down with UFC fighter Bryan "Bam Bam" Barbarena! Bryan gives the inside scoop of how he got his nickname "Bam Bam" and his underground fight club! Bryan also describes his journey to becoming a UFC fighter; where he has been and his future plans. Bryan also fills us in on his spur of the moment family farm!
Check out the video of their interview or read the transcript of their conversation below! We will be releasing new Diamond's Corner videos every Friday, so check back for more awesome conversations with interesting people.
READ CRAIG AND Bryan Barbarena's CONVERSATION BELOW
CRAIG: Welcome back everybody to another edition ofDiamond's Corner, uh special guest, they are always special guests but today wegot Bryan 'Bam Bam' Barberena, sorry about that...
BRYAN: All good.
CRAIG: ...Joining us. How's it going?
BRYAN: It's going great. I really appreciate you having meon and uh, thinking about me. Thanks.
CRAIG: No, no problem. I mean I, besides uh, being a fan ofyours and loving your fighting and knowing that you protect the family jewelswith a good, our cup, and system. Um, yeah want to get to know you a littlebit! You know, I want to hear about, you know, first, how did, where did 'BamBam' come from? Is that like the Flintstones?
BRYAN: Yeah absolutely, uh it's a knockoff I guess from theFlintstones, uh, my uncle used to call me that when I was a kid because he saidI'd run around and just kind of hit stuff and just like a reckless abandon andcalled me 'Bam Bam' all the time and it just kind of stuck and then uh, kind ofdisappeared for a while and then when I started fighting everyone was like,'Bam Bam, it makes sense, it's got to be your name, it's got to be your fightname'
CRAIG: You, you, so I know you went to Prescott High School?
CRAIG: You were a, you were a badger. Were you still badgersback then?
CRAIG: Did you play any other sports in high school beforefighting?
BRYAN: Uh, I played football. Growing up I did some soccerand my mom wouldn't let me do contact sports so I had to wait until high schooluh, played football. And I actually started playing football in California,Alta Loma High School; I played my freshman year there. Then we moved to Prescottand I played there. But I led it all four years at football, um, on varsity.
BRYAN: Had a great season, had a great time with football,and had some college offers, and decided to pursue MMA instead.
CRAIG: So you were playing as a freshman on varsity? That'spretty impressive.
BRYAN: Well, I mean I suited out, they pulled me up to suitout and I was there just as back-up. I didn't really see field time.
CRAIG: Yeah but to be on the team, uh, were you, what sizewere you, maybe like junior or senior year, let’s say, high school?
BRYAN: Uh, junior/senior year I was probably lighter thanthe rest of my years. I was 210 as a freshman, and uh, my senior year/junioryear I was about 205/200.
CRAIG: So how did you kind of transition from that tofighting. I mean when did you get introduced to it, did you start out? I knowyou train at the MMA lab, right?
BRYAN: I used to, yeah, I now train at uh, Gym-o in NorthCarolina.
CRAIG: Okay, so, tell me about how you kind of got startedin fighting.
BRYAN: uh, I was picked on a lot as a kid, I was heavyset,kind of a bigger build so, I got picked on being fat, above all.
BRYAN: So I got in some altercations, you know, I was neverreally a big fan of conflict and everything. I tried to avoid it. Um, butsometimes it gets too far where you've got to defend yourself, so I've got insome school fights. My brothers were having a lot of the same issues, they're ayear younger than me, and uh, so we got in some fights together, and stuff likethat. And um, I was in to boxing, we always used to watch boxing growing up andI wanted to box but my mom wouldn't let me. But I was really into football soall my focus was on football and uh, didn't get to play any contact sportsuntil high school, but before that me and my brothers used to box in thebackyard, and roughhouse around.
BRYAN: And my, I'd say my junior year of high school, I hadseen the UFC on TV. The Ultimate Fighter. I started watching it, saw my firstfight and I remember it was Chuck Liddell who fought, and I believe he foughtTito or something like that.
BRYAN: And uh, I was just like, man this is awesome. I wantto do this, like I want us to find out where I could train. There was nowherenear me in Prescott at that time, and uh, me and my brothers bought some MMAgloves and started practicing on each other, just watching videos...
BRYAN: ...YouTube, and, then we started getting togetherwith people at the school, at the high school, and bringing people in andstarting a little underground fight club.
CRAIG: Yeah I was going to say, that's what it sounds like.
BRYAN: Yeah, so we had a little underground, you know.
CRAIG: And then, what after that? When did you really know,hey this is something I really want to do and really, when were you able to getinto a real gym or start to really train at the next level?
BRYAN: Um, you know it was a while before I even got into agym but when I decided I wanted to do it was probably my senior year. End of mysenior year that summer, and decided I wasn't going to play football but endedup going ahead and playing, had a great year, but during that whole time, myfocus was like okay well, I think I'm going to go pursue MMA instead of pursuefootball. So when the end of the year came and I had college rides to go playand everything, I decided to turn those down and move, move back to Californiato look for a gym, and at that time my Wife was pregnant, uh, I was workingfull time, I spent a little bit of time at a gym, but it was like here andthere, spotty, didn't really have time to train or anything. Um, got anopportunity to go to Minnesota and uh, for work, and so we moved out there toget on our feet, and then, the closest gym was five, six, hours away. So I waslike, this isn't going to work.
CRAIG: Wow. What were you doing for work? So you, what wereyou doing for work in California? Just curious. And then what did you do inMinnesota that you were able to move out there?
BRYAN: Yeah, so in California I worked in an ApartmentComplex as um, just a groundskeeper. I was working my way into a maintenanceposition. And then um, Minnesota at the time was a much more affordable priceto live in, and then I was going to get uh, working on getting a job at thiscompany out there called DigiKey. And then that ended up falling through afterwe moved there. I didn't get the job, um, didn't get the position. And so Ihonestly, I was just working regular jobs. Worked at Wal-Mart, worked wherever.
BRYAN: And then I started working building grain bins, soI'd travel with a group of guys and we'd go build grain bins on farms.
CRAIG: Wow what's that like?
BRYAN: Uh, you know it's pretty tough work. You know you'reworking in the hot weather; you're carrying these sheets of metal around andplaying with these little screws, trying to get them screwed on, everything. Soit's a process. And it's tough. And we pour the concrete and everything so. Um,you know, it was hard labor, and that's fine, I love hard work so...
BRYAN: ...It kind of fit right in, and I made good money.Uh, but luckily, in the town I lived in, there was a small gym, and that's whereI got my start. Some local fighters there. It's called the Stomp Factory, inDeep River Falls. And uh, just some local guys there who love to fight, and alot of them wrestled, and were in MMA, had already had pro fights andeverything. Kyle Jensen was the coach at that time, and he had fought in theWEC. And so I just went in there and started training with those guys, and theywere teaching me everything, and I always naturally had more of a strikingability, so um, you know, I just went in there and we pretty much grappled andsparred everyday so, that's where I got my start.
CRAIG: Wow. So now where are, what's the family life likenow, I mean, kids, wife, what’s the latest?
BRYAN: Yeah, you know, uh, we're pretty much all on lockdownI guess. Or not lockdown, but, you know
BRYAN: But to be honest, it's not much different for us. We kindof like, we're home bodies, we like to be around our family, and I like to bearound my wife and kids all the time, as much as I can, and um, do things withthem. We live on a farm now so, uh, there's plenty of work to do and projectsto get into. So we're constantly staying busy. And then uh, you know my kidshelp around here. We've got plenty of animals to tend to and they're doing homeschoolright now, my wife is teaching them, and it's actually, I guess, a littleblessing in disguise because we were talking about home schooling them nextyear anyways.
CRAIG: Really? How many kids do you have now?
BRYAN: Three. I have two boys and a girl.
CRAIG: Okay. How old?
BRYAN: Yeah, um eleven, nine and, uh, six.
BRYAN: Yeah, so.
CRAIG: And tell me about this farm you live on. Is this afamily farm? Is this I mean...?
BRYAN: This is a spur of the moment farm. Like, somethingthat growing up, my grandpa who lived with us when I was a kid used to tell meabout his farm that he had in Colombia, and all the animals and the livestockand everything. The crops and everything. And it kind of just stuck in my head,and as I got older I started to want it more and more and began talking with mywife about it, and she kind of started falling in love with the idea and thenwe fell in love with the idea even more that you know, it would be raising ourkids in a different lifestyle, and kind of teach them some different lifemorals and everything.
BRYAN: So we really loved that. And that's I actually leftthe MMA Lab, and decided to move out to Tennessee, bought some land, and uh,started building a farm from scratch.
CRAIG: Wow, so you're, the farm, you're in Tennessee now.
CRAIG: Whereabouts? I love Tennessee, I drove down therewith my three kids to, we went to Dollywood...
BRYAN: Oh yeah, how far?
CRAIG: Yeah from Chicago it was not bad; it was like anine-hour drive. We enjoyed it, it was really pretty.
CRAIG: Where, where in Tennessee are you about?
BRYAN: So we're right outside of Knoxville. The oppositeside of Dollywood I guess, yeah.
CRAIG: And how, so you just, want a farm, and now were youworking full time also? Are you fighting at this time and making some money?Does your wife work? Like how does this all, how do you get this together?
BRYAN: Haha, yeah so uh, you know when I started fighting,before I was in the UFC, I was working at Chipotle, and just doing a side parttime gig so I could bring in some money.
BRYAN: And uh, my wife is an RN, so she was working and thenuh, when it came to the point where I was like I was kind of on the brink ofmaking it, it was like okay well, I need to, I think it would be best for me togo train full time, and you know, the price of what we were paying forbabysitters and daycare was, you know, way more than what I was even bringingin, and so it was like, we talked about it and she was like, yeah, I mean, ifyou can take the kids to the gym, you've got to watch them all the time, untilI get off work, and then uh, so they've got to go to training with you andeverything. If one's sick, then you can't go, you know, kind of thing. I wasjust like yeah, let's, let's do it. I talked to the Coach, John Crouch, at theMMA Lab.
BRYAN: You know, since I had got there, everybody was reallycool, and it's really family oriented, and everybody's great with the kids so,I used to bring them in. There didn't used to be like a kids corner oranything, I used to bring them in on the mat right there, set them up with somesnacks, and a tablet to watch a movie...
BRYAN: ...I'd be in the middle of sparring and they'd berunning through the middle of the mat, you know.
CRAIG: Oh man.
BRYAN: It was always scary and kind of, I was always worriedthat they were going to get hurt but uh, those, everybody at the MMA Lab, allthose guys benching and everybody there is, they're like family to me really.They helped take care of my kids, you know, nobody ever got mad and was like,man get your kids off the mat, or what are you doing blah blah blah.
BRYAN: You know, it was never that, it was always like, whoa,they're in the middle of sparring, they'd stop, they'd help guide them back youknow, help get them back into their snacks and stuff like that so.
CRAIG: Yeah, I had a chance to visit the MMA Lab years ago.I wonder if you were even there, this could have been seven years ago at this,right now. But uh, same vibe, really cool dudes, I even, they invited me topractice and I was warming up and practicing with those guys as best as Icould. Um, so that's cool. So when you left there, you were saying....
BRYAN: Yeah, yeah, so I ended up going and fighting fulltime, my wife was working, she was the breadwinner, she was uh, you know. I gotinto the UFC, was making some money, better than I had been, but uh, you know,not enough to live off of. So my wife was working, I was fighting, and um, wedo our best to kind of save our money and we're not big spenders, not flashingor anything like that. So we just put money aside, and save up, and we just,for rainy days too, and then over time it was like, we had a good savings, anduh, the farm became more and more something we wanted, and so we were reallyputting money away to, you know, buy a farm and, with a house and everything,and so, it ended up, she ended up going back to school to be a PA...
BRYAN: And um, so, at that time I was making a little bettermoney. So I told her, quit work, you're not going to work when you're inschool. You focus on school full time, and so I was just fighting for money andsaving the money, what we could. And we ended up deciding to move to Tennessee,and she transferred to UT, and began her PA program there. And you know, shewas about to be a PA and ended up deciding that she didn't want to work withpeople anymore, so she switched to luckily, she was able to switch to veterinary.
BRYAN: And uh, so she can be a vet and she was actually setto graduate in December but, with everything going on, we're not actually surewhat's going to happen now. Um, we might have to wait a little bit longer, butyeah. Being a vet, awesome. She gets to work with all the animals, she lovesit, it's going to help us a lot on the farm too and uh, pretty much, you know,been living off savings for now.
CRAIG: So, you save money, you work hard, you watch yourspending, you don't buy, you know, crap you don't need, which is you know, alot of people's problems, including mine at times, and then, how does, how doyou find out about this farm? And is it a working farm at the time, are thereanimals there? Or it's just big land with a house? And a barn?
BRYAN: Yeah actually it's a, we came out here, so I foughtin Nashville, and we decided we were going to stay a week after, and look athouses and land.
CRAIG: Why, just randomly you were thinking, just move toTennessee? Or...
BRYAN: We had a couple different places in mind, but uh, Tennesseewas on the top of the list just because it has no income tax, and that helps meas a fighter, and then also, I know Luke Sanders in Nashville, I trained withhim at the Lab.
BRYAN: I know Scott in Knoxville, which, I trained with himat the lab.
CRAIG: Yeah we know Scott.
BRYAN: Yeah, so, I originally, you know, we originallylooked at Nashville, that's where we wanted to go. And then after we lookedthere, I fought, one, looked around for a week, and it was like man, it iscrazy busy here. Like even the outskirts are crazy busy. And we liked a couplehouses, and they were gone like the next day. So it was like, man this is nuts,let’s go to Knoxville and check it out. Scott's up there, he’s more of myweight class anyways, so, and we train a lot together so, let's go look upthere. Looked around, didn't find anything that we uh, wanted, but we came backa couple more times, looked, um, and then finally I fought in Rotterdam,Rotterdam against Leon Edwards.
BRYAN: Got back and we had, you know, talked about moving,and I hadn't, I kind of mentioned it to the team, but didn't really, you know,say when or anything. Because I didn't know, and uh, but my wife found a houseon Craigslist that was on 6 acres for rent. And we're like well, this isperfect, like, this is the perfect little spot, and it was attached to like,they had, the people owned a farm, and so, it was just kind of on their farm.It was like, well this is perfect to kind of adapt and get a feel, and then wecan look for houses. Uh so, called the people and they were like, 'well we'resupposed to have some people come look at it'. We were like 'We'll take it'.
BRYAN: And uh, like 'Oh, okay, when will you be here?','We'll be here this weekend'. And this was like Monday. So I was like...
CRAIG: Sorry, so you're in Arizona right still? At thistime?
BRYAN: Yeah, yeah. And so I went in to the gym and like,telling everybody like, 'Hey, I know I talked about moving, and, you know andstuff, but it's happening now. Like we just got an opportunity we can't pass upon it, um, so we're just, we're gonna go.'
BRYAN: Everybody was really cool, you know, people were sadto see me go, but um, real supportive about it. So we took off. Rented this house,lived there for a little under six months, decided we were going to look at thelast few that were on our list to look at, found the house we're in now, boughtit, and uh, it was just really a house with land and has water on it, a pond, alittle bit of lake.
BRYAN: Creeks, pasture, woods, so, all it was was perimeterfence, they had no cross-fencing, no animal or livestock, so uh, we're doing itall from scratch.
CRAIG: Wow, and so, did you have a realtor, did you find this,your wife found it? I mean how did you find this one that you ended up settlingon?
BRYAN: Uh, we did have a realtor. But I found this one on,like, we were just, our realtor was looking, we were looking, we were, youknow, on houses for sale, land for sale, or whatever, and came across this one.And then, sent it to the realtor and she was like, 'Okay, I'll set it up.' Cameout, looked at it.
CRAIG: Wow. What were some of the, so what are some of likethe bigger, what were some of the bigger initial projects that you had to dothat were tough. I mean, repairs, I mean it's a whole farm! How do you evenstart?
BRYAN: Uh, for us, the first thing was uh, let's get fencingup. We wanted to have cows; we wanted to have Black Angus, so let's get fencingup. So that was the first project, and luckily we're blessed with my awesomeneighbor, he's been a huge help, showing me the ropes, helping us with everythingwe need. You know he has a lot of equipment, and he lends it to us, and youknow, I help him cut hay and everything. And so we work together a lot. Andhe's been a real blessing to us, um, to have someone so kind as to show useverything and let us have use of his tools and everything.
BRYAN: So fencing, fencing was the first thing. Got somefence up, fenced only one pasture for now, it's about fifteen acres. So wefenced that, and then, next was the chicken coop. Had to have a chicken coop,we wanted to get some chickens, and we couldn't just, we're real big onrepurposing items....
BRYAN: ... Or building it ourselves, stuff like that. Kindof saving money instead of hiring people or buying something that's alreadybuilt. So, we got, I went out with a chainsaw, cut some trees down, found somedead trees, or trees that were dead but still standing. Cut them down, and uh,bought this attachment for my chainsaw that's like a mill. So I milled out somewood, some planks...
CRAIG: You're not in the chicken coop right now are you?Looks like...
BRYAN: No hahaha, no.
CRAIG: There's planks behind you.
BRYAN: Yeah, this is our little pool area, but uh, yeah, soI went out and milled some wood, we used leftover wood that we had, andeverything, built this chicken coop, and it's huge, like I can stand up in it.
CRAIG: Are any of these pictures of the farm on yourInstagram? Or, where can we see some of this stuff?
BRYAN: Um yeah, there's some on my Instagram, but you shouldfollow @thebamfamfarm, and uh, that has all the pictures. My wife runs that,and posts everything, all our animals um, are on there.
CRAIG: Okay- say that again? I'm going to put it up on thescreen here when we edit this. Say it one more, where was it?
BRYAN: Yeah, The Bam Fam Farm
CRAIG: The Bam Fam Farm. That's awesome. Alright we're goingto follow that. Uh, so, fresh eggs, I mean that's working out.
BRYAN: Fresh eggs, uh, we have, we butchered a cow so wehave, you know, fresh, pasture-raised beef, uh, grass-fed beef. And uh, we havegoats now; we fenced another area and have goats now. Nigerian Dwarf goats. Sowe get milk off them.
BRYAN: We've also had plenty of life born here on the farm,chicks, goats, cows, uh cats haha.
CRAIG: And how many years are you into it now with thisfarm?
BRYAN: Uh this is year three.
CRAIG: Year three?
CRAIG: And what percentage are you complete to what youenvision, let's say, ten years down the road or, I mean what is, is it never-ending?
BRYAN: It's honestly, it's never-ending. Um, but, yeah, Imean, the goal is to be profitable, for the farm to bring a profit. Andhonestly, everybody that I talk to from all the cattle events and stuff thatI've gone to with my neighbor and stuff, you know, he introduces me to peopleand I'm talking to people and they all go, at, the first question they ask meis like, why did you get in to farming. They said, 'Are you a millionaire?'. Isaid no, they said, 'Well you're never going to make any money, you know how afarm makes a million dollars, they start with two million'.
CRAIG: That's funny
BRYAN: Yeah, so I mean, yes there's ways to make money,people are obviously doing it, um, you see small farms probably making morethan large farms at times, um, just because they're more niche stuff and getinto different things. And you know, we want to play in both areas, we want tohave the beef cattle, we want to have grass-fed, uh, beef to sell, um, chickeneggs, which we already have that too.
BRYAN: And the goats, we plan on showing our goats for ourkids for 4H, and getting involved in that. We've sold a bunch of our goatsalready too, and we plan on making soaps and lotions with the milk.
BRYAN: I mean, it's a process.
CRAIG: It's amazing, I mean, for someone that's living thesuburban, city, you know, kind of city life, I mean that's something that, andI grew up fishing and outdoors and I've worked some hard days. But that's justa whole different lifestyle.
CRAIG: And it's amazing, your kids are real lucky thatthey're going to be able to grow up in this type of unique experience and knowreal farm work and what real hard work is. And even before, you have thisprofitable farm, at least your family is immediately benefiting from you know,fresh meat, and fresh eggs, and fresh air.
CRAIG: And land, that's just something that um.
BRYAN: Yeah, we have a huge garden, like; we've done agarden every year. It's a big garden, it's massive.
CRAIG: Um, yeah, I just think it's awesome, I think that's,if you're ever, don't ever, not saying you do, but don't ever take it forgranted, even when you're out there working, you know, a fifteen hour day andthings are going tough. A guy like me would love to be able to have a bunch ofland and an ATV and all my stuff there.
CRAIG: It's really cool. Um, that's amazing. And so, I meanI could talk about that farm stuff all day, but we're gonna wrap up soon.What's next? I know we're trying to get this COVID stuff over and get back toour normal life, I mean, any fights on the horizon? Anything in the future thatyou know of that's coming up?
BRYAN: Ah you know I'm actually uh, in recovery still. I hadback surgery last September.
CRAIG: Ah, I'm sorry. Okay.
BRYAN: No that's okay, yeah, um, but recovery is goinggreat. My back's feeling better than, a lot better than it was, back to normalhonestly.
BRYAN: And um, I recently just got cleared to kind of startdoing all the training things that I'm allowed to do so I was, going to startgetting back in the gym and then everything closed down. So, been doing what Ican, and honestly, need to do more to get in shape and get ready so that whenthings open up, I can uh, get back in the gym and get ready for a fight. I'mhoping September will be a year, I'm hoping to fight in August, at the end of August,early September.
CRAIG: Good! I mean we want you back. Heal up, do whateverrehab you've got to do and try to keep busy. You definitely have the land to doit and keep busy down there. What's the weather like down there today?
BRYAN: Uh, today is actually beautiful out, it's a, realsunny, probably in the high 70's, little bit of breeze, so it's nice, perfectout right now.
CRAIG: Oh man.
BRYAN: Tomorrow it's supposed to rain for two days, and youknow, we get a lot of rain here, and humid, that's the biggest thing for me,the biggest change is the humidity.
CRAIG: Um, that's awesome man. Well, it was good talking toyou. Tell everyone where we can find you and follow you, and we know we've gotto follow, was it, The Bam Fam Farm, was that it? Did I say it right?
BRYAN: Yep, The Bam Fam Farm, yeah.
CRAIG: And what about you? Where can we get updates and be apart of your life?
BRYAN: Yeah, you can follow me @bryan_barberena onInstagram, Twitter, and I also have a fan page on Facebook, just BryanBarberena. And uh, you guys can follow me on there and keep track of everythingthat's going on, the workouts I'm doing, the fish I'm catching, catching somebass over here, and you know, the workouts I'm doing, the lifestyle I'm living,and I appreciate you guys coming along for the ride.
CRAIG: Yeah, no problem. Thanks a lot. It was good to meetyou and see you in person and um, we'll talk soon. Thanks again.
BRYAN: I appreciate it, thanks again for having me on.
CRAIG: No problem.