Corby mixed martial artist Ryan Barby is gearing up to battle it out with Europe’s finest next week.
The 27-year-old fighter is part of the United Kingdom Mixed Martial Arts Federation (UKMMAF) team that will compete in the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation’s Euorpean Open Championships of Amateur MMA, which get under next Thursday (November 19).
Barby’s story is a fascinating one.
Having studied karate as a youngster, he then enjoyed a good spell as an amateur boxer – a sport he continued to do during his seven years with the Army that saw him serve in Afghanistan.
But he then turned his attention to MMA and, having missed out previously on a place in the UK team, he is now ready to make his international bow in the competition, which is being held at the University of Wolverhampton.
Barby and Wales’ Jack Shaw will be the UK’s representatives in the 155lb division for the straight knockout event.
And the Corby man can hardly wait as he admitted MMA has become something of an “obsession” for him.
“I have been involved in martial arts from a young age, I went to karate lessons when I was five,” Barby said.
“I went into amateur boxing when I was 12 or 13 and I did that for a long time.
“I joined the army when I was 16 and did seven years and I was able to continue boxing for them, which helped me stay fit and that’s something that has always been important to me.
“But I got into MMA and if I am being honest, it has become a real obsession for me.
“I have done whatever I need to do to make sure I can train as much as possible and that includes giving up one of the two jobs I had.
“I actually went to try to get into the UK team seven months ago but I fell short.
“I went away and trained hard and had two fights which I won, both in the first round, and then I came back for the trials.
“It starts with 16 and it is a straight knockout competition but I won’t know who I am facing until next week.
“Jack is a good fighter as well and he has a 9-0 record and there is a chance we could fight each other if we both progress.
“I am very fortunate because I have had a lot of people getting behind me with sponsorship to enable me to do this.
“I have been doing this for years to get to this stage and now I want to do well so that it gives me a big chance to to stay in the UK team for the World Championships in Las Vegas next year.
“That incorporates a lot of things with the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) and getting to that arena is my big dream.”
While Barby trains at various venues, he knows where his roots are and he hopes he can inspire more Corby youngsters will take up martial arts or other sports.
“I started off training in Corby at local gyms for boxing and MMA,” he added.
“I boxed with Corby Olympic Boxing Club and then did MMA at the Epiphany Church in Corby and I would urge any kids or anyone from the town to get into boxing or martial arts and go and check out these great clubs where I started off.”
Tickets for next week’s European Championships are available by visiting the website http://www.immaf.org/buy-immaf-tickets.