Tim Barnett talks BAMMA, Rhys McKee, 2017 aims and more

On the UK MMA scene, Tim Barnett (3-0) is quickly becoming, if he’s not already, one of the top lightweight prospects to keep a sturdy eye on. At Tanko 3, Barnett’s latest challenge came in the form of the ultra durable Onur Caglar (3-2), in which the former cruised to a first-round TKO finish.

In the eyes of the MMA Academy representative, the contest’s flow followed the very path Tim predicted it would. Analysing his performance, Barnett told SevereMMA:

“The fight went exactly how I thought it would. I knew I’d finish it in the first round. I thought my height, range and athleticism would be too much for him straight away. My record doesn’t yet showcase my true abilities and last weekend at Tanko was just the start of it.

“The guys we train with help us reach certain positions where the experience we have is like the equivalent of someone with six or seven professional fights. I expected that style of a fight from Onur and it just goes to show how many levels above we really are now.

“I had no injuries following Tanko. The only thing that was sore was my lower leg from a calf kick, but I pretty much came out unscathed. When he stepped in to try and close the distance, I knew that if I stepped out of range and circled off that my range would be too much for him. The shot that I finished him with I actually saw and set up, so when I hit him with it I knew it was over.

Having left victorious and seemingly with barely a scratch on him, Barnett would be ready for his next competition very soon. Little did Tim know that the quick turnaround would be of much escalation, challenging Ireland’s Rhys Mckee (5-0) for the Lonsdale lightweight title at BAMMA 28 in Dublin just two weeks later.

Upon his telling, Barnett was as fast as a heartbeat in agreeing to this mega opportunity.

“The fight was put to me last Monday,” Tim informed. “My coach Jason Tan came up to me and told me an opportunity has presented itself to fight on BAMMA. I checked my weight following a little treat on the Sunday and then I said yes. I felt confident enough to say yes because of the level of guys around me and because I’m training with them on a daily basis, I can never be shocked in an actual fight.

“My diet is always strict and concise and I truly believe that if you respect your body and what you put into it to feel and be the best version of yourself, your body will respect you in return and that’s shown to be the case so far in my career.

“If you want longevity and success in this game, your body is key,” the lightweight told. “I look at legends like Bernard Hopkins being able to fight way past the time of his peers because he wouldn’t go out partying after fights be out of shape. He’d keep eating clean and I know that’s what I have to replicate for my future’s sake.

“Funnily enough, I don’t know if you follow the Law of Attraction stuff, but three days before my fight on Tanko I was teaching a client in a personal training session and she told me I needed a nickname because I looked skinny leading up to the fight. I said to her there’s a kid in Ireland whose nickname is ‘Skeletor’ because he’s tall and skinny like me. A week later and the fight was signed.”

Following his dispatching of the aforementioned Caglar, Barnett was adamant for tougher fights and welcomed all challengers. In his opinion, this is exactly the type of opportunity and opponent he has been relishing. Despite the shot awaiting him, Tim remains unfazed and level-headed, preventing so-called ‘hype’ to alter his attitude.

“I’ve already seen a slight impact in these bigger fights,” Tim told. “For instance, sponsorship has already picked up for me and without that I wouldn’t be capable to do this sport as I am. Medicals themselves aren’t cheap for these big shows.

“In terms of the fight itself, I don’t like to get caught up in the hype of a fight. It’s the promotion’s job to make a fight seem bigger than it is. At the end of the day, we’re going to step in there and fight like any other night. Something I observed from my last fight is that none of the stuff from beforehand like the staredown, none of it matters on the night. You get in there and you give it your all regardless and that’s what I’ll always do. I don’t think I’ve ever not brought it and that’s down to my mindset and preparation.

“I’d go as far to say that even the top lightweights in the country, I definitely wouldn’t be out of place with any of them on the mats or in the cage. I know where I belong.”

Amateur MMA is rapidly becoming a much more diverse, talented pool than ever before. As dynamic as it is becoming, there’s still an aura that differs when you go from watching the most experienced amateurs to the professionals.

With that said, it’s been a year since the 155-pounder’s professional debut back at ICE FC 11 last February following a very impressive amateur run, holding legitimate titles such as the FCC strap in the process. Reflecting on his first year as a pro, Tim revealed,

“Initially I overthought a lot of things, especially the usage of elbows when I really didn’t need to do. What I go to is the high percentage of shots, such as how many jabs and leg kicks are you going to land in a fight versus the amount of spinning back-fists for instance. Basics win fights and always have done. I’ve learned to stick to the basics and utilise them in the right ways.

“What I haven’t changed is my timing and tempo. If anything, that’s improved. I always set the pace in my fights and very few opponents can handle that pace I put forward. Three five-minute rounds for someone like me in the shape I’m in is nothing. I can always go and I’m just excited to see where these things can take me now.”

This time around, Tim’s centre stage takes place in enemy territory, McKee’s backyard, at the SSE Arena in Belfast. As this may sometimes be enough to rattle a visiting combatant, it’s the perfect environment for Barnett – one in which he feels will allow him to completely sink his teeth into in order to capitalise on taking home the gold.

“Rhys is a very good fighter,” Tim confessed. “He’s very dangerous and that will undoubtedly bring out the best in me. The more danger I’m in, the sharper my instincts will be. My adrenaline will be flying and through that, the more my hands and feet will be in the right places at the right times.

“In terms of being in his backyard, that really means nothing to me. I will absorb the energy that comes from that. It will not penetrate me because I’m bulletproof in that sense. I will embrace the opportunity to fly to another country, stand in front of three-thousand fans and whether or not they want to cheer me, I will still walk out and get in that cage. There’ll be nowhere to run and that means I’ll have to fight and that’s what I do best whilst enjoying it.

“I fight and think differently than anyone else on this planet. I am a bit of a black sheep in that sense but I embrace that. If you ask the same questions everyone else asks, you’ll only get the same answers everyone else gets. On the night, I will be so present that I will be connected to the canvas underneath my feet. I will be connected to the smell of the leather gloves. If blood leaks then I’ll be connected to the smell of that. I will be connected to the moment and I will enjoy it.

“Rhys’ abilities are no joke, he’s a very good opponent. However I believe I’m more crisp. I believe my technical boxing will be my edge.”

As the 2017 MMA calendar gets well and truly under way, like many up-and-comers, Barnett has his goals set along with the mindset to achieve them. In the first two months of the year, the to-do list is already being ticked off. With two goals already on their way to being completed, Barnett is aiming for the hat-trick on February 24th.

“I wrote my goals down at the end of 2016,” revealed the undefeated Liverpudlian. “The first was to fight at least five times. The second was to fight on a big show whether it be BAMMA or Cage Warriors. By the 24th February I’ll have already fought twice and fought on one of our biggest stages. Even financially, this year is getting off to a much better start with the support from sponsorship. This year, everything is already coming together for me.

“I’m focused on myself and not the opinions of others and that’s when you truly can go far. I want to achieve my greatness and help others along the way realise that you have to go after your goals because it will always pay off as it is for me now. I’m growing in life and my limits are constantly being pushed.”