In an alternate universe, New Zealand boxing icon Kevin Barry could be sitting at the top of the UFC mountain right now.
The Las Vegas-based boxing trainer has been busy back in New Zealand over the past week with Joseph Parker, who he had trained for the previous two months before he took on South African heavyweight Francois Botha.
Parker's second-round knockout of Botha in West Auckland on Thursday night will further strengthen Barry's reputation as a trainer, but things could have unfolded much differently for the 1984 Olympic boxing silver medallist.
Barry told Sunday News he was approached by UFC supremo Dana White in 2005 to be the boxing trainer for season one of The Ultimate Fighter, the organisation's flagship reality TV fight show.
"When everything blew up with David [Tua], I went to Vegas and Dana said to me, ‘I've got the perfect gym for you to work out of'," Barry said.
"It was the Fertitta private gym. Dana used to be a personal trainer there, and I started working there with him. In season 1 of The Ultimate Fighter, I was going to be the boxing coach."
Barry said he worked with all the fighters in the show's buildup and was even interviewed on camera for segments - but broke his wrist in a sparring session before The Ultimate Fighter hit the air.
It meant he missed his opportunity to be involved at the ground floor of the UFC - now a wealthy, worldwide operation.
"Two weeks before the show started, I busted my wrist on a fighter's head," Barry said.
"I was sparring with the guy into the third or fourth round and I threw a jab that hit him in the head and snapped my wrist. A year-and-a-half later, I got going again [with the UFC] but never really followed through with it."
Barry said White even offered him video rights for the UFC in Australia and New Zealand but he didn't take them, as he wasn't sure the organisation would take off.
"We've laughed about it a few times since," he said. "He told me it was fantastic timing, and UFC was ready to blow up.
"I talked to some guys back here but nobody knew it would turn into the monster that it is today."
Barry has stayed in touch with White over recent years - even organising a meeting with him for Duco Events' Dean Lonergan and David Higgins,who were interested in running New Zealand's first-ever UFC show.
- © Fairfax NZ News