Return of the Barn Cat
By Briggs Seekins, #briggsfightalk on Twitter
After a five-year break from the sport, UFC veteran and Binghamton-area resident Tamdan McCrory returned to the cage with a bang on Friday night, as he knocked out tough wrestler Brennan Ward in just 21 seconds on the nationally televised broadcast of Bellator 123. The victory improved McCrory’s record to 12-3 with 8 KOs and 3 submission victories.
McCrory was one of the first stars to emerge from the robust Central New York MMA scene. The former wrestling captain at Ithaca High School turned professional while still a student at SUNY-Cortland and was fighting in the UFC before finishing his bachelor’s degree.
At 6’4”, McCrory made for an extremely tall 170-pound fighter in his early days. He was a self-described “skinny, glasses-wearing nerd” and the contrast between his introspective personality and ferocious, in-ring performances made him a colorful figure in the Northeast scene and a rising phenom in the sport.
An original member of Team Bombsquad, McCrory trained at the legendary “Barn” in Polkville, just outside of Cortland. And it was there he earned the nickname “Barn Cat,” another bundle of violence in an unlikely package.
I remember being in a bar for a party one night shortly after his first UFC win over veteran Pete Spratt. A scraggly old biker spotted McCrory and said to his buddy “That’s the guy. He don’t look like nothing.” His buddy told him: “Dude, that kid’s a killer.”
After ending his first run in the sport with a 3-3 record in the UFC, McCrory turned his attention to running his own martial arts schools and training fighters. He got married and had a daughter. He currently runs the B.C. Martial Arts Academy in Binghamton.
On Friday night at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut, it looked like McCrory had never stepped away. Fighting a local hero and rising contender on the Bellator roster, McCrory never gave Ward a chance to get started. Using his superior reach perfectly to control the range, McCrory boxed the wrestler from the outside. After hurting him with one shot, he drove Ward straight back against the cage, finishing him off with an aesthetically beautiful four-punch combination where every punch connected.
McCrory knew his man was out even as Ward was dropping to the canvas. Rather than following him to the floor, McCrory stepped confidently away, raising his hands in triumph.
In his post-fight interview, McCrory told Bellator’s Jimmy Smith “I haven’t been sitting on the couch drinking beer the last five years. I’ve been working on my skills.” Fighting now as a 185-pound middleweight, McCrory remains very long for his division. As he proved on Friday, he retains the boxing skills to capitalize on that advantage.
With their Spike Television contract, Bellator continues to battle hard to challenge UFC’s hegemony in the sport. With a high-profile stoppage, McCrory could be finding himself at the ideal place to revitalize his career. Still just 27, the five-year break he’s coming off from represents five years of training camp wear-and-tear avoided. In terms of longevity in the sport, it could end up being a blessing.