At GLORY 18 in Shawnee, Oklahoma, things didn't go exactly to plan for Wayne Barrett. The Queens, New York-based fighter had the worst performance of his pro career, losing a one-sided unanimous decision to Jason Wilnis, getting knocked down twice during the bout.
Barrett, 28, was 5-1 heading into that fight; his only loss coming in the semifinal round of the GLORY: "Last Man Standing" eight-man tournament, by a somewhat controversial decision to Joe "Stitch ‘em Up" Schilling. He floored Bogdan Stoica in the quarterfinals that night with a huge left hook, which knocked the Romanian out as he jumped in with a flying knee.
The former Georgia Golden Gloves champion's stock was still high heading into GLORY 18, but his thoughts of a title shot against Artem Levin were quickly evaporated by Wilnis. Now he needs two wins in one night at GLORY 20 in Dubai on April 3, 2015, in the night's four-man middleweight tournament to get a crack at "The Lion." Barrett obviously didn't perform well at GLORY 18, but he also didn't seem like himself to many who were watching that night.
Was there something else going on at the time? Why did he perform so poorly?
"You know a lot of people asked me that," Barrett recently told MMAmania.com. "A lot of people that saw my fights prior to that knew that something was wrong. I don't want to make excuses or whatever, but coming up in the next show people will see me at 100 percent and when all cylinders are firing."
There have been countless fighters in combat sports who will give you a list of excuses after a loss. Or they point to ailments and injuries as the reason when they didn't perform particularly well. Although Barrett would hint that something was up in his personal life, and that he wasn't quite himself, he wasn't going to disclose that information for any of us to chew on. He's old school like that. Prideful. He will take the loss on the chin and move on.
The No. 5-GLORY middleweight has put the loss behind him, but it was definitely a tumultuous time for him after the loss in November.
"It was absolutely tough to deal with, but being in the situation I was in, I actually kind of came to grips with knowing that could've have happened before I got in the ring, but it was already too late and didn't want to back down," said Barrett, revealing he has having second thoughts at the time, but was too stubborn to back out.
"The one thing I learned from that fight is that every fight is important and I have to be mature enough to know when to pass and when not to go all the way through."
Perhaps things were rolling along to fast for Barrett. He was only 3-0 when he shocked the kickboxing world and defeated Schilling at GLORY 12 in New York. Then he was in the "Last Man Standing" tournament vying for the middleweight title.
That's not typical after four professional fights.
"No," he says defiantly. "Wilnis was no problem. Even with me not at 100 percent in the third round he had nothing for me. In the first round he knocked me down with 10 seconds left. Before that he wasn't really doing much. I already know if he can't take me in the condition I was in then... It wasn't too fast, too soon. I'm not one of those fighters that makes excuses, or says I didn't train or I didn't do this or blame other people or blah, blah, blah... Bottom line is, it was meant for him to win that night, and all circumstances led up to put him in a position to win."
It is clear that Barrett is hellbent on getting back into the GLORY ring to show the world what he is made of and that he is way better than what he showed in the loss to Wilnis. The Dutchman will be in the opposing bracket at GLORY 20 fighting Brazilian standout Alex Pereira. Of course Barrett wants a second crack at him, but his "first order of business is with Marcus," he said.
The Canadian Muay Thai practitioner was 39-0 before entering GLORY and after the knockout loss to Schilling at "Last Man Standing," Marcus has split his last two fights in China. The last fight a technical knockout loss on January 31, 2015 to Fang Bian. Marcus has always possessed a devastating clinch, but a prolonged plumb attack is not allowed under GLORY rules. The ref will break up a clinch after a few seconds.
Barrett's unorthodox movement and boxing could prove to be huge advantage against Marcus at GLORY 20.
"Absolutely," he agreed. "I'm watching all of his old fights and I knew about him before. That is really what he made his whole career off of. When he fought Schilling or when he fought Artem, that is all he did was hold. That is his bread and butter man, the hold into the knee. That is really what he depends on. I saw that China fight and it was really bad for him and it showed a lot of holes. He fought what, 60 days ago? Not much is going to change in 60 days no matter who he trains with or where he trains."
The match up against Marcus is an interesting one, because it's in many ways do or die for both fighters. Marcus lost two out of his last three fights, including his GLORY debut. Meanwhile, Barrett is on a two-fight losing streak. A loss puts either fighter in a very tough spot within the division rankings.
But Barrett isn't feeling extra pressure, he says. The loss to Wilnis is something he accepts. However, he still feels he won the rematch against Schilling at "Last Man Standing," saying he's "watched the tape a million times," and added, "Simon's (losses) were a little bit more devastating than mine."
Should he get past Marcus, then a rematch with Wilnis could await him and that is definitely a fight he would prefer to happen, so he can redeem himself.
"If my night goes the way I want it to go, it's going to be round four for me," Barrett said. "I'm not going to be starting from scratch. I know how to beat that guy. I have a formula. I know what works against him."
If it ends up being Pereira, he'll be ready for that match up, too.
"If it's Pereira, he's a dangerous dude and he is one of the best out there too. I train with Liam McGeary who is taller than him and just as lanky. I feel comfortable with either one that I get from the other side of the bracket."
Adding a great layer to the narrative of this GLORY 20 four-man contender tournament is the fact that the winner gets a title shot against Levin at GLORY 21 in San Diego in May. Which essentially makes the tournament a two-fight title eliminator.
That is a dangling carrot that Barrett is embracing.
"I mean, it works absolutely amazing for me," I believe in destiny. If I had beaten Wilnis I would've already gotten that title shot. God knows for some reason, here I am again in a great position after that fight. I can't deny that I was meant for this."
The word out of Barrett's camp is that he has been as driven and focused as he's ever been. He is certainly surrounded with talent to push him like Bellator light heavyweight champion Liam McGeary and World Series of Fighting (WSOF) middleweight champion David Branch. Aside from getting rid of distractions outside the ring, Barrett said he and his coach have really bonded.
"I got a chance to really bond with my coach Jason Strout (a protege of Duke Roufus) and find a medium and find something that works for us both," said Barrett. "He wants me to attack. He wants me to be more aggressive. I like to be elusive and I like to do my little tricks here and there. We had to find a way to put it all together and make it work and I feel like we finally made that bond."
The 5-1 fighter said he truly believes in himself and his ability. He learned a lot after GLORY 18 and he knows who he is now. "That fight with Wilnis showed me who I am inside. Now I know exactly what I need to do. I really want to show people this is who I am and that this is my dream. I'm going to hold on to my dream."
There isn't a doubt in his mind that he is winning the four-man tournament in Dubai on April 3rd. And if Marcus, Pereira, or Wilnis think he is slipping because of that poor performance at GLORY 18, they can consider themselves warned.
"To be honest, I'm a fighter," he said. "That's what I said I'm going to do. I'm going to fight. This is what comes with the job and the territory. I want to be that guy. I want to be the exceptional person. Like I said, come next week, come next Friday people are going to see who I am and what I really can do. And this last fight, If they try to judge me on that, they are going to be sadly mistaken."