BAMMA Lonsdale lightweight champion Tim Barnett is no stranger to going into enemy territory and Nov. 10 he will do it once again when he faces Irishman Richie Smullen at BAMMA 32 in Dublin.
Barnett (5-0) won his title back in February this year when he defeated Northern Irishman Rhys McKee via TKO at BAMMA 28 in Belfast. The Englishman walked into the bout a underdog against the much fancied Mckee, but after finishing the fight with a devastating flurry on the feet in the dying seconds of the first round, he proved to everyone that he should never have been overlooked.
“I think everyone looked past me before that fight,” Barnett said, speaking exclusively to MMAUNO.com. “I knew inside what I brought to the table though and I’ve known since the first fight I ever had. I perform better against high calibre opponents and in situations when the pressure is highest.
“It pushes me into that autopilot mode where I’m just an observer of myself.
“Sometimes it’s just like I’m in a space of no mind. I’m just watching and observing myself perform. It’s an amazing thing to be able to do.”
Barnett followed his title winning performance against McKee with his first title defence against Mario Saeed. In the mean time, his next challenger Smullen fought to a draw with McKee, but Barnett isn’t getting carried away with the obvious ‘MMA maths’ that could be applied to the situation.
“To be honest, when Rhys and Richie fought to a draw, my immediate thought was where does that leave me,” Barnett said. “I’m happy to be fighting Richie though because it’s forced me to grow a lot in areas that I hadn’t been focusing on. I was working on them, but the fact the fact I’m fighting Richie and not Rhys had me focus on my jiu-jitsu more.
“I’ve improved so much in the six months I’ve had off.”
“My strength and conditioning has also improved a lot and I’ve still been keeping my hands sharp. I think the fact I’m fighting Richie has worked to my favour because it’s helped me tighten up weaker parts of my game. That said, I’m still focusing on my game and imposing that on him. I’m a perfectionist though so I just want to make sure that I’m covered in all areas.”
When he faces Smullen on Nov. 10, Barnett will be walking into the lions den and facing Smullen in his own backyard in Dublin. The intimidation factor is something that would weigh heavily on the mind of a lot of fighters, but Barnett isn’t overly concerned by it and he welcomes the challenge of silencing the crowd in the 3 Arena.
“Honestly, I know it’s going to be intimidating by I enjoy testing myself like that,” Barnett said. “A victory like that, in those circumstances, I always think it means more after the fight. I feel it develops me more as a person coming up against that sort of adversity.
“The sacrifices you put in leading up to the fight and during the fight, being in that sort of atmosphere I know brings out the best in me. I try to apply the martial arts principles throughout my life and that’s why you never see me getting involved in smash talk or anything. I respect my opponent and on the night I’m going to enjoy into the territory.
“I know I’ll be nervous leading up to the fight, but once we’re in there it’s just me and him. I’ll focus on that and enjoy it.”
Barnett isn’t a man who gets ahead of himself, but he’s not one to shy away from setting himself goals to achieve. After beating Smullen, he’s set himself the target of obtaining further BAMMA gold and then later moving onto the world scene after continuing his domination.
“After Smullen, I want the BAMMA world title,” Barnett said. “I want [Paul] Redmond or Ryan Scope. Anyone like that, but after Smullen I want a big name in the MMA world so that I can open some eyes and make people realize I’m a real contender.
“I’ve already envisioned myself so many times having a belt on each shoulder.”
“I’m just going to do my best to work towards that every single day. After that I want to get the UFC call up. I know it’s still while off, but I think if I keep finishing fights in the devastating fashion that I have been doing, I don’t think anyone will be able to argue that I don’t deserve it. First things first though, I’m going to deal with Smullen at BAMMA 32.”