Welcome back fight fans and today is quite the unique day as we travel across the pond to feature a man that has been grinding in the U.K. MMA scene for years, the one and only Leeroy Barnes (18-16). Leeroy has been a main face in the Cage Warriors promotion and one of the most personable and charismatic fighters on social media today (@leeroybarnes). So take a minute to get to know one of the guys who could be the face of the next big U.K. MMA star.
Welcome back to the one and only Leeroy Barnes. Man it’s been a while since we have spoken, what have you been up to besides taking over the MMA world across the pond?
Barnes: It’s good to be back. Literally just that man, 100 percent dedicated my life to achieving my goals in MMA and I’m reaping the rewards. I just spent my time trying to be an all round better athlete and person.
Nice man, it’s awesome to hear that! For our readers that may not know you just yet, talk to us about your fight style and why people should (if they don’t already) have their eyes on you.
Barnes: I come to fight, and I come to finish fights. My conditioning is top class and that allows me to work at a high explosive pace and constantly move forward. Win or lose I’ve never been in a boring fight.
Man I would agree with that, I have followed your career for a while and love watching you go to work! You mentioned on Twitter that your old interview no longer reflects you as a fighter or person, so talk to us about the changes. Last time we spoke you are a party machine, living the life and knocking people’s heads off, what’s changed?
Barnes: Everything really, my whole life has changed. I got a bit ahead of myself and thought I was a bigger deal than what I was. When I started to lose fights again the partying got out of hand and the losses got worse, my mind-set wasn’t on performing at all and with that came some pretty bad depression and soul-searching to be honest. When I met my girlfriend Laura I decided I was going to fully focus on becoming a success, it’s been a long road back of self-evaluation not only as a fighter but as a person and needless to say I don’t party or drink anymore, I don’t even drink carbonated drinks or dairy (laughs) after my last win I treated myself to a pint of full fat Coca Cola (laughs) I have daily goals weekly goals and long-term goals, and everyday I work at achieving them.
Not gonna lie, I am blown away with that change and now I feel like a fat ass as I sit here with my drink lol. Now you are from Blackpool, England. A place that not many of our readers maybe familiar with. Talk to us about the area, how it molded you to the man you are and the MMA scene over there.
Barnes: Blackpool is a seaside tourist resort, it’s a party town and had been referred to as the Las Vegas of the U.K. But I’m sure that’s pretty insulting to Las Vegas if Las Vegas ever experienced Blackpool (laughs). Well there isn’t a MMA scene in Blackpool at all. No gyms or training partners of any note yet it has still managed to produce two high level Mixed Martial Artists in myself and Karl Etherington the Bellator Heavyweight. It is to be noted though that although we both train Brazilian Jiu Jitsu together under Black Belt Paul Rice at Enigma BJJ in the town, we both travel to train elsewhere for all of our other disciplines. I now train and compete out of Next Generation in Liverpool under my head coach Paul Rimmer where I travel a 5-6 hour round trip daily to train. The team is so high-class and strong having numerous world champs on the mat daily such as Paddy Pimblett the Cage Warriors FW champ and Chris Fishgold the LW champ as well as 20-30 high-class pro’s on the mat every morning, it’s impossible not to improve daily with such training partners and coaches. A lot of my support comes from my home town of Blackpool but I would say since the start of my career Liverpool had been the place that has had the biggest impact on me as a fighter.
Damn man you really have changed everything! When I first met you, you had the reputation of a guy who liked to throw hands and your first two finishes came via TKO, but since then you have 14 submission wins and in my opinion the best stat, no decision wins…. you take people out. Do you feel your skill-set has evolved and your submission game has really taken over or do you just take what’s open to finish a fight? Do you prefer a KO or submission and why?
Barnes: I prefer the win no matter how it comes but my style does tend to bring finishes. Yeah it’s crazy I started MMA with a Boxing base as most UK guys do but now I’m more and more referred to as a grappler or Jiu Jitsu guy. It’s normally the fear of my hands that initiates my opponents to try and take the fight to the ground which is normally the mistake as that’s where I finish it, I have submitted both high-class wrestlers and BJJ black belts in MMA, I think my grappling game has been very underrated and is only just starting to get the recognition it deserves in MMA but also on the grappling circuit where I managed to compete quite regularly last year. My stand up and striking are an area that I’ve been constantly working since the start of my career. I have great speed and power but it’s something that I’ve only been able to show glimpses of in the past couple of years. My trademark has become chokes and I use the hashtag #AttackTheNeck on social media I do enjoy finishing the fight via choke. I’ve strangled more young men than John Wayne Gacy. I would probably say that’s my favorite way to end a fight but I’ll take a win how ever I can.
Ladies and gentleman you now know why I have followed this guy for years, not only is he a straight savage but he is hilarious. Now you went through a little rough patch in 2014 but have bounced back to win 4 out of your last 5. What do you feel you have done differently? How nice was it to get back in the winners circle?
Barnes: Yeah I went through a very bad stage, I very nearly retired from sport. It took a lot for me to come back, it’s taken a few years now. I first had to change who I was as a person, lots of difficult and honest self-evaluation, I had to be a better person before I could focus on booming a better fighter! My potential has never been in question just tapping into has always been a problem. I’ve struggled in the past mentally, with confidence etc leaving my best performances in the gym, that’s something I first had to work on. I worked with performance coach for a while used the grappling circuit as a test area for all my theories and mental preparation which helped. I write everything I do down, I evaluate every day at the end of the end and I write notes on what I need to work on what I need to improve and also what I’m doing well, I write down what I eat, I write down all my goals from daily to long term and I set out a step by step plan on how I’m going to achieve them and what I need to do to achieve them. Every step of the way since I started back on this journey I’ve achieved every goal I set and I’m even ahead of schedule. One of the biggest changes is that I appreciate life, I appreciate the experiences I’m lucky to have and really enjoy what I’m going now the whole fight week experience instead of being stressful and full of self-doubt like it used to be is now much more enjoyable and something I look forward to! It’s great to be winning fights again I’m very grateful.
That right there but might the realist talk anyone has ever said to us and I appreciate you sharing that with us. In your last fight you rebounded from a loss to Victor Cheng by choking out John Redmond, a guy who was riding a nice 2 fight win streak. Talk to us about your prep for that fight and when you locked in that guillotine how nice was it knowing you had the win.
Barnes: Yeah John was coming off 2 KO wins but was more known for his ground game with the nick name “JonnyJitzu”. I took that fight on fairly short notice but I never take a day off and my weight is always good so it wasn’t an issue. Johnny was a scary fight to be honest at 6’5″, big power, good Jiu Jitsu and very wild. I didn’t choose the fight. I don’t choose any of my fights anymore, my head coach Paul Rimmer is in charge of all that and I have full confidence in him, he’s one of the greatest minds in the game. He told me what to be prepared for and he told me exactly how I was going to beat Redmond and how I had to do it. All I did was exactly what he told me and the outcome was exactly as he said it would be, just far sooner than expected.
I’m very good at all chokes especially the harder to get ones like the arm in guillotine as soon as I had my full guard I knew the fight was over, he tried to defend and held on for a long time, he even slammed me before he went to sleep but I wasn’t letting go. I was extremely happy to get the win it meant a lot to me.
Agree, you have some very slick chokes and they come out of no where. As for your coach, it’s probably a smart thing listening to coach River as like you said he is one of the best minds in the game. So in 2013 you were inked to a nice deal with Cage Warriors (a top promotion in the UK that brought about 2 current UFC champs) and have been with them since. How has that been going and what is your favorite aspect of that promotion?
Barnes: Yeah I was and then parted ways with them. Obviously I was losing fights and CW is a UFC level show, I built myself back up taking wins on the regional circuit and re signed a 5 fight exclusive contract with CW last year. That was one of my goals and it happened a lot sooner than I planned. CW is amazing, the exposure is great it’s broadcast live on the top sports channel BT Sport in the UK, it’s also broadcast all over Europe and on UFC FightPass, it’s the breeding ground for UFC talent, everything is in line with the UFC from the Medicals we need to have right up to how professional the show is. It’s not a coincidences that UFC Champs Bisping and McGregor came from CW. It’s an honor to be signed exclusives with CW and to win the CW World title is my ultimate goal right now and I know I’ll be in the position to contest it before the end of the year.
I wouldn’t doubt that at all, you have some of the best talent in the world. Now you are a vet of 32 pro fights, when can we expect to see you in the USA? Any aspiration to come over here and compete?
Barnes: Yes that would be amazing, if CW do another US show I will be trying to get matched on that! If not when I win the title hopefully the UFC will look past my ups and downs and I’ll see you all over the pond.
Yeah that would be awesome but just know I will be waiting on the shores of Virginia Beach waiting… don’t think I forgot you called me out in our last interview lol. I will be the guy yelling your name, throwing sand then running away hahahah. Speaking of all those pro fights, you have amasses quite a following of amazing fans who get nuts during your fights. What do your fans mean to you, do you ever hear them in the cage and if you could say one thing to them what would it be?
Barnes: They honestly mean the world to me, I don’t think they understand how grateful I am for there support. A lot of them saw me go through the bad stages and back to where I am now and I’ve had some great messages along the way on social media etc! They never gave up on me and if I can inspire even just one of them to better themselves in any way then I’m happy! Because they inspire me.
That is awesome man! And the way you go out of your way on social media to talk to them and show a genuine interest is amazing! Ok before we let you go are there any people or sponsors you would like to mention?
Barnes: I have a team of amazing sponsors who all support me in different ways from financially to providing me with products that make training at my high level much easier than it could be. Boxer Scaffolding Ltd, Grenadier Grips, Vape Safe, Beyond Genetics, Valor Fight Wear, Gym Prep, The Meat Man, SA Nutrition, St Tanz, Judges Demand, BJJ 247 and We Ain’t Goin Home.
I couldn’t do what I do at the level I do without the above people.
There you have it fight fans, the one and only Leeroy Barnes. Make sure to get over to Twitter and the rest and follow him as well as @theartofmma.