Daniel “Chucky” Barrera just finished up a few rounds in the gym, prepping for his July 22 bout against Eduardo Alvarez, and while you would assume he would be a little tired or ready to do anything other than an interview, the junior bantamweight prospect is as affable as usual, describing his Tuesday as “A great day.”

That’s what life is for a fighter, especially a 21-year-old one who is unbeaten, garnering plenty of buzz on the local Southern California scene, and making inroads on the national scene by appearing on UFC FIGHT PASS cards.

Yeah, it’s good to be Barrera these days, especially after he extended his pro record to 2-0-1 with an 80-second knockout of Victor Hernandez Martin in January. That doesn’t mean he was as impressed with his win as everyone who saw it was.

“I definitely got a little too wild when I had him hurt,” said Barrera. “I was swinging recklessly and I should have been a little tighter picking my shots more because you never know, anything could happen in the fight. You can swing wild, the guy's hurt, but he catches you with a shot you don't see, and boom, you go down. So that's exactly what we went over, making sure that I stay composed, regardless of if he's hurt, and pick my shots, not just throw bombs carelessly.”

Yep, 21 years old. You usually get a greater dose of honesty from someone young as opposed to a jaded old pro in this game, but many who have been around the sport since they were kids have already learned how to talk in cliches and tell the media what they think we want to hear, as opposed to the truth. Barrera isn’t one of those folks, and he believes that such honesty is necessary to succeed, even if it’s only delivered to the man in the mirror.

“I think all the fighters after their fights should not just be praised for their win; they should go back and watch video on themselves and see what mistakes they made, because that's exactly what I do. Yeah, we praised myself a little bit: “Good job, we won, but you did this, you jumped in and looked at your hand when you jumped in.” There's always mistakes. There's more mistakes than good in a fight, regardless of any performance. So, to some people, I may look flawless, but to my coach, I still performed at a C level, which we want to get to performing at an A level. But that's just being honest with yourself and being willing to take criticism and just being willing to do all that to get to the next level.”

Having seen the mindset Barrera has embraced, it’s little surprise that he’s not breaking out a cake and planning a party to celebrate the one-year anniversary of his pro debut last July 28. Of course, he still has a fight to cap off that first 12 months a week from Saturday, but even with another first-round knockout, he may still look at his rookie year more critically than most would.

“It was very difficult,” he said. “There were ups and downs in my career already. Sparring wise, we've been having tough sparring the whole year, which is good, which I'm glad for. And I feel like I'm very composed now as a fighter, sparring wise, I still have to see how I feel in the ring and get as composed as I am in sparring in a fight.”

That’s the trick, right? Take what you’ve done in the gym and have it translate into your performance on fight night. Some never figure that out, earning a reputation as a killer in the gym but a lamb when the paycheck is on the line. In Barrera’s case, he’s learning poise and trying to not get dragged into a brawl once he gets hit. As mentioned earlier, the Riverside product is a fighter, and fighters can often get taken into places they didn’t want to go, making easy fights a lot harder. But the first part of solving a problem is figuring out that there is one, and Barrera is starting to put it all together, something aided not just by drills and reminders from his coach, Al Franco, but from sparring with different foes for every camp, allowing him to stay sharp both mentally and physically.

“We try to switch it up as much as we can because we never know exactly what style we're going to get,” Barrera said. “For me, I find it exciting because then I can see how I react and how I adapt to the different styles. So it's pretty fun for me.”

What will be even more enjoyable is putting that work on display at Chumash Casino against Alvarez.

“I think it’s going to show that regardless of what style we fight, as long as I still stick to the game plan and follow my coaches' instructions, it should go smoothly.”

Then the next year in the education and evolution of Chucky Barrera will begin. What does that look like?

“Year two, hopefully, we can stay busy and continue getting the wins in a good fashion,” he said. “If I can get the rounds in, even better, so I can get the experience. But if the knockout comes, it comes. But I want to just stay busy, get back to the gym a week after the fights and hopefully get four to five fights a year again and just move on up the rankings.”