Darren Stewart wants to avenge a controversial no-contest versus Francimar Barroso this weekend. He told Bloody Elbow why this fight has become so personal.
British light heavyweight Darren Stewart told Bloody Elbow that his UFC debut was ‘ruined’ thanks to the controversy that erupted in the wake of his fight with Francimar Barroso. In November the two men squared off in the opening bout of UFC Fight Night 100: Bader vs. Nogueira 2, in Sao Paulo, Brazil. That fight went about a minute and a half before referee Eduardo Herdy waved the contest off and awarded Stewart a TKO victory.
Buoyed with winning his UFC debut – and moving to 8-0 as a professional – Stewart boarded a flight for the long trip home to London, England. It wasn’t until after he arrived that he discovered that his official record had reverted back to 7-0 and that his win versus Barroso had been overturned by the Brazilian sanctioning body CABMMA. The regulators had deemed that an accidental clash of heads had rendered Barroso unable to compete and thus scrubbed away Stewart’s previously announced TKO victory.
Stewart found this out from his brother; who had seen it on Facebook. “I was really angry,” admitted Stewart. “I won. I still believe I won. I came back as a winner, until the Brazilian commission went against me… But I don’t care what the commission says, I still say I’m 8-0, I don’t care what it says on a bit of paper and when I win again, I’ll be 9-0.”
Along with being upset with CABMMA, Stewart also holds resentment towards Barroso, who he believes could have fought on after the accidental clash of heads. “Basically he’s a wimp and a girl,” charged Stewart. “We get elbowed in this sport and kneed to the head and he’s crying about that? I just don’t think he wanted to be there.”
Though he feels he bested Barroso in Sao Paulo, Stewart was still critical of his own performance. The UFC debutante believes he ‘rushed’ the fight, and cites the fabled ‘Octagon jitters’ as the reason why. “I don’t usually fight like that,” said Stewart. “I rushed it. Maybe if I didn’t go forward so much the clash of heads wouldn’t have happened. So I think I rushed it because of nerves, as much as I don’t want to admit it.”
Stewart said his nerves were mostly down to how surreal it felt to be competing in the UFC, something he had dreamed of doing for some time. The fact his first UFC fight occurred so far from home, and in hostile territory, didn’t faze him, though. “If you watch it; when I came out, I was dancing – dancing to their boos and everything. It didn’t make a difference,” he said.
For his second match in the UFC, Stewart will face Francimar Barroso a second time. However, now they’ll face-off in London, at UFC Fight Night: Anderson vs. Manuwa. “I didn’t really care about a rematch,” revealed Stewart. “I just wanted to move on because I actually want to go to middleweight. But then my coaches and my manager were pushing for the rematch, saying, ‘Just do him over. Do him over one last time,’ I was like, ‘I’m done with light heavy. These guys are massive, man. I’m fed up. I want a change’, but everyone’s saying, ‘Just one more time, one more time for the home town.’ And I was like, ‘Okay, for my hometown, I’ll do it one last time and then move on.’”
Despite not being thrilled to take another fight at 205 pounds, the 5’10” Stewart is looking forward to facing Barroso – for personal reasons. “He’s got no respect for me,” alleged Stewart. “Everyone says that I should respect him. I’m not respecting anything now. He’s getting no respect from me. From the moment we walked into the [fighters’ hotel], he was giving me dirty looks.”
“I’ve been through fights where me and my opponent don’t really talk,” continued Stewart. “You might nod heads, you might shake hands – whatever – show some sort of ‘fighter respect’, but Barroso gave me nothing. So I’m not showing him any respect this time. None at all.”
Stewart also remarked that he took offense to hearing Barroso had said, before their fight, that he believed he was the better striker. Stewart took this comment to mean Barroso didn’t respect his black belt in taekwondo. “He thinks he can beat me at stand-up?,” scoffed Stewart. “Nah. I’m a black belt. Obviously people can say that belts mean nothing, but I’ve proved – based on all my knockouts – that my black belt means something. He hasn’t proved anything with his black belt in jiu jitsu.”
When evaluating his opponent’s skills, Stewart said plainly, “I don’t think he’s good at anything,” before reasserting that he has no fear (or respect) for Barroso’s grappling credentials. “He thinks he can beat me standing up, so we’ll see. We’ll see in the O2 Arena, because now I don’t respect his black belt at all. I don’t respect him as a person, he can drop dead for all I care.”
There’s only one quality Barroso possess that Stewart somewhat respects: size. “He’s big, strong… and annoying,” said Stewart. Their difference in height was a contributing factor to the clash of heads that marred their first fight. In the clinch Stewart’s forehead lined up precisely with 6’1” Barroso’s cheekbone. Even though he knows another clinch with Barroso might bring about another clash of heads, Stewart doesn’t see any point in adjusting his game plan.
“That’s where my head’s got to be,” said Stewart. “I’m glad he’s got that height on him. I don’t have to bend down to put my head in his face or reach up, it’s just the right height.”
Stewart admitted that he is entering the rematch with Barroso with a level of emotion he is unfamiliar with, which concerns him. “It’s not MMA anymore, it’s personal. But I’ve got to control it. I can’t let that get out of hand, because that can mess me up. I’ve got to go in there with the same mindset as any other fight, but that’s gonna be a bit impossible because of what he’s done.”
The second meeting of Stewart and Barroso goes down at the O2 Arena, which is situated around twenty minutes from Stewart’s home. The Englishman stated he was “over the moon” with the prospect of fighting in an arena he thought he might only ever watch the UFC in. Though, Stewart said he isn’t feeling any extra pressure fighting in front of his hometown fans. “There’s always pressure wherever you go,” claimed Stewart. “Everybody wants you to win. Some say there will be more pressure because it is in your hometown, but I’ve always fought in my hometown.”
Win or lose, Stewart is intent on competing at middleweight after this fight. And he’s excited with what he sees before him in the 185-pound division. “It’s more stacked than light heavyweight,” he said. “It’s going to be a lot more work. It’s going to be faster paced. But obviously I’ll be the fastest.”
Currently ruling over the middleweights is Stewart’s countryman Michael Bisping. Though Stewart doubts Bisping will still be an active fighter by the time he hopes to be competing for a UFC crown, he did state that he “wouldn’t mind” fighting the current champion.
“It’d be a brawl,” said Stewart of a potential match-up with The Count. “I’d be faster than him, but he’s got great endurance; he keeps coming. Some say he’s not technical, but he just keeps coming at you, so that would be a problem. Aggression, we’re probably on the same level. Trash talk, he wins all day. He’s good at kicks and stuff, strength is alright… just the pressure, he’s got good pressure and you can’t put him away easily.”
Before he can seriously entertain the idea of a match-up with a UFC middleweight champion, Stewart must first get past Barroso on Saturday night. You can watch their tilt, like the rest of the event, exclusively on UFC Fight Pass. Stewart said he’d be grateful to people who watch, but he’s not too bothered either way. “If you see, you see, if you don’t, you don’t. If the support is there, that’s great, but I’m not gonna stress on it. I’ve got business to take care of.”