Inglewood, Calif.: Many pro athletes often dream and envision themselves making it to the top of their chosen sport from a young age. However, they usually don't make it there under a year and a half's time. That is the case for New York's Wayne Barrett, who won his first pro fight in February of 2013 and signed to fight for GLORY not long afterward. On Saturday night (June 21, 2014) he will be part of one of the biggest tournaments in the history of kickboxing at GLORY: "Last Man Standing."
Sitting up on the dais at the press conference inside the Forum in Inglewood on Wednesday, the fighting phenom was asked if it was a surreal moment sitting among the likes of Melvin Manhoef, Artem Levin, Simon Marcus and the rest of the top middleweights in the tournament this quickly into his career.
"I love combat sports and all I ever thought about as a kid was being here," the 4-0 Barrett told MMAmania.com during the presser. "When you imagine something and then you're there, that's me. It is surreal to me that my mind conceived this and wanted it so bad and now I am here. I only turned pro last February. I believe in destiny. I am finally living life the way that I am supposed to be living, I am finally happy. I am not stressed out about this. I am very comfortable here, and I love the ring. What I want to show people is keep believing in yourself and don't give up."
Barrett, 28, won his first two fights under the GLORY banner by knockout, but it was his performance against Joe Schilling at GLORY 12 that really started to open the eyes of the experts and fellow fighters around the sport. When the matchup was announced, many felt that taking on the GLORY 10 tournament winner so soon in his career would result in a bad night for Barrett. The former Georgia Golden Gloves champion proved all the doubters wrong and proved he belonged after defeating Schilling by unanimous decision in front of his hometown fans at Madison Square Garden.
"It's an honor me to fight any of these guys," said Barret, who later admitted he used to watch Melvin Manhoef to get in the zone. Just don't get it confused that he will be awestruck when it's time to start trading blows, and if you think he got here by luck, he'll tell you that you are "naive."
"I came up watching Artem Levin, Melvin Manhoef... I am a fan of all these guys, even Joe Schilling here," Said Barrett, who will take on Bogdan Stoica in the opening round. But on Saturday, I can't afford to be a fan. We are all on the same path man, it's about kickboxing. If I get in the ring with any one of these guys I will be respectful, but we are gonna be fighting."
Barrett carries himself like a true professional, but he doesn't take himself too seriously. When given a compliment on his suit and pocket kerchief, he proudly pointed to his matching socks and smiled. He has a presence about him -- which was as immediately noticeable in New York at GLORY 12 -- as it is now. It's not that he thinks he belongs, it's that he knows he belongs. If the other seven fighters that make up the tournament point to him having the shortest fight resume, the No. 3-ranked GLORY middleweight says they will be showing a bad error in judgement and will be overlooking his ability to put fellow fighters flat on their back.
"If these guys keep looking at my 4-0 record they are going to be sadly, sadly mistaken," Barrett warned. "The one thing they keep missing is that I go for the knockout. Joe barely made it out of there. He was honestly saved in the second round by the bell -- if anyone watches -- he really should've been out of there, because I knocked him down three times in the second round, but they didn't count the second knockdown until the end of the round."
Not only did Barrett show that he had power that night, he proved he had a chin, after getting rocked by a Schilling knee that put him down to the canvas in the third round.
"I got up, looked up and was like 'oh he caught me with that huh,'" said Barrett like it was no big deal. "I'm really happy for that knee because it let me know just how tough I am in the final round, after going after him, blowing my gas tank out in the second and still I was able to continue."
He, along with the other fighters have to be conscious of reserving energy if they want to attempt to navigate their way through three fights in one night. Every fighter's strategy always differs from others, whether it be a personal preference or the camps game plan. Barrett says he has to "address every issue as they come."
"I got Bogdan first," said Barrett, who won 15 of his 19 amateur fights inside the distance. "He's sneaky. He's going to come out there... He's been real nice and friendly now, but I've seen him. I've seen his fights. He's been babied over there in Super Kombat. They obviously love him. He's going to find out that the referee is not going to save him this time and I'm going to do what I have to do. He's going to come out there and be nice and then come out there and try and kick my head off and knock my head off, so I have to put him on notice early."
Every opponent of the Square Circle Muay Thai fighter has been notice so far in his career, and Schilling is the only one to make it to the judges. Barrett has power and his boxing has been his best skillset and advantage over his opponents. Duke Roufus has stated that Barrett's particular style will be "very difficult" for the other middleweights to figure out.
"Absolutely," agreed Barrett. "I think one of the things a lot of these guys do is come forward, no head movement. I plan to use that whole ring as my canvas on June 21st and every time I step in the ring. If they give us a 16-foot, 20-foot ring, why not use the whole thing? Why am I going to just meet you in the center of the ring? For what, to just stand there? My mom didn't make me to be a punching bag. I have a nervous system. I have a brain and I plan on using that and that's what really makes the difference when I fight these guys."
Without question, Barrett is primed and focused at making a run at history and the GLORY middleweight title. However, that doesn't mean he hasn't had a chance to look back at his beginnings and how he came to get to where he is, only days before one of the biggest tournaments in kickboxing history.
"Listen, my career is a Godsend and I can't exclude God because like I tell these guys, I decided to turn pro and everything fell into place," he said.
"Hopefully come Saturday I am not just all talk, I'm action, I do some crazy stuff in the ring, think outside the box and prove to the world that you can do anything you want as long as you put your mind to it and you believe."