Dubai is a crucial battleground for New York native Barrett (5-2, 4 KO’s). He turned professional after a solid amateur career and when he won his professional debut in style he was signed up by GLORY, where he quickly racked up a string of wins and punched his way into the contender conversation.
But when he entered the eight-man LAST MAN STANDING tournament at GLORY 17 LOS ANGELES in June last year, his dream was shattered in the semi-finals. He dropped a razor-close decision to Joe Schilling, the first of his professional career, and exited the tournament. Levin went on to win it and the vacant belt.
Barrett pondered the loss at length. He had previously spoken of having intensely visualized going his professional career undefeated, so to have one in his L-column troubled him. Nonetheless, he moved forward to a GLORY 18 OKLAHOMA contest with Jason ‘Psycho’ Wilnis (24-4-1, 6 KO’s) confident of victory. Instead he suffered another decision loss, this one emphatic.
Now riding a hitherto unimaginable two-fight losing streak, Barrett faces Simon ‘Bad Bwoy’ Marcus (40-2-1, 24 KO’s) in the semi-finals of the Dubai tournament. A loss would be soul-destroying for him – despite the paucity of his professional record, Barrett’s self-belief makes no allowances for failure regardless of any experience disadvantage. Marcus is in his sights.
“I think at first he will come out and be really aggressive, try to intimidate me, keep his hands high, but after the first round he will go back to being who he really is.
“He’s gonna come forward man. He’s gonna come forward and try and land that dangerous right hand of his straight down the middle… He is going to try and pressure me and make me break. But he is going to run into something big.”
Prior to the GLORY 18 fight with Wilnis, Barrett talked about what he saw as the limitations of the Dutch kickboxing style. He wasn’t the first person to have critiqued the Dutch method for its rather static footwork and lack of head movement, yet Wilnis took the comments very personally.
He set out to make Barrett eat his words and as things turned out the fight was one-sided. Wilnis ran away with a unanimous decision win, scoring several knockdowns in the process, and Barrett – who has hinted at carrying a bad injury into the fight – was extremely dejected afterwards. Ahead of the GLORY 20 DUBAI tournament he wants to keep his talking to a minimum.
“I’m still me but after last my fight I was like, did I run my mouth too much? So I am holding back a bit this time. This is a crucial fight for me. I do well when I am focused, when I am under pressure and my back is to the wall,” he says.
“I am still making jokes and stuff, making people laugh, but I am fully focused. My training partners [like Bellator champion Liam McGeary] see that and they are on board, they are keep me accountable in all of my training at all times. I’m ready to light my fuse.”
Such is his self-belief, he actually hopes he can get a rematch with Wilnis in the final match of the Dubai tournament.
Wilnis faces Alex ‘Poatan’ Pereira (17-2, 10 KO’s) in the semi-finals. He has a 2012 win via leg-kick stoppage over the former professional boxer from Brazil, but a lot of people are backing Pereira in this rematch. One of them is Artem Levin, who says Pereira is the strongest puncher he has ever faced.
“Pereira is a smart guy and he has adapted very well [from professional boxing]. I think he is going to take care of Wilnis – I hope he doesn’t take care of Wilnis, because I want to get that rematch – but I think Pereira knows what to do this time,” Barrett says.
“Wilnis put it on him pretty bad in their first fight. You can never say what is going to happen, it is going to be a hard fight, but I think this time Pereira has it. When I picture this fight I just see it being a war. Pereira is going to eat a lot of leg kicks and Wilnis is going to take a lot of knees.
“The fight with me and Marcus will be a war as well, in the first round especially. He is going to be all pumped up. He’s also coming off a loss and being the kind of person he is, that’s very hard for him to accept. So he is going to come in hard at the start of the fight. He’s still very confident in himself.”
Barrett has a keen interest in psychology and has studied the subject to some depth. His analytical mindset is rather unique – not only does he analyze his opponent, he pays close attention to the opposing coach as well, believing that the coach’s mindset will be made manifest in his fighter’s performance.
Such an analytical mind is a double-edged sword though; it can cut both ways. In the same way that Barrett likes to climb inside an opponent’s head and have a good root around he can also be prone to tinkering away inside his own mind.
Personally, I believe this can lead to him being too hard on himself. Despite his good amateur record and his solid performances in GLORY thus far he is still very young in his professional career, yet is facing elite international fighters who can have as much as ten times the ring experience that he does. But Barrett cuts himself no slack.
“I am hard on myself,” he agrees. “It’s because I know I can do this. Sometimes it’s just about the decisions you make. Like that last fight [with Wilnis at GLORY 18]. I think about it all the time, like maybe I should have just called up and said ‘Hey, I’m sorry, I’m injured, I have to pull out.’ But I went through with it.
“Maybe that was me being too full of myself and just thinking I could fight injured and win. But me being hard on myself and my performances, it’s because I know I can do it. I feel like I should be doing this. I know I can beat these guys. I know I can be champion. I know I can beat Artem [Levin]. I know it.”
“There’s no fluff on my record, I have never turned down a fight. Anyone they put in front of me, I fight. I am not one of those guys who goes, ‘Hmm, have you got anyone a bit easier?’ – I never do that. They call me and they tell me who I am fighting and that’s it. So as for being hard on myself…I don’t know. I just have certain expectations of myself because I know I can do it.”
GLORY 20 DUBAI takes place Friday April 3 and airs in the US on Spike TV at 10pm ET/9PM CT.
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