Luke ‘Big Slow’ Barnatt
BritFights have been warned about Mr Luke ‘The Bigslow’ Barnatt but only so far as the length of the interviews he gives. As we love a lengthy interview, how could we not ask the man himself. And yes this is the longest interview I have ever written but also one of the easiest due to the fantastic content.
Luke Barnatt is 6’6” fights at 84kg and has a fantastic record of 5-0-0. He fights out of Tsunami Gym in Cambridge. He originally got into MMA by working the doors with Jack Mason and it was Jack who invited him down to Tsunami Gym. Luke was sure he was going to kick Jack’s butt but tells us it never quite worked out that way. However, it did ignite a spark in Luke that saw him start in MMA and as he says, here he is a few years later where his life is completely MMA.
With regards to training, Luke says he wakes up, trains, eats, sleeps, trains, eats, trains, sleeps and all this is pretty much six days a week every week. He says he is lucky to have a great team around him and they are all very close which makes it easier to enjoy training . Luke lives in the gym from Monday to Friday with UFC vet John ‘The One’ Maguire and his brother Tommy ‘2gunz’ Maguire. He explains that they train together in everything from boxing to wrestling and keep each other going, pushing each other to the limit. Luke didn’t want to bore us with a complete breakdown of his training but says he trains 2-3 times a day, 6 times a week and rests on Saturdays! When it comes to preparing for a fight, he tells us the only difference is that the intensity increases and the amount decreases.
Luke goes on to tell us that his pre-fight superstitions have become a habit and the once exciting appeal has faded slightly as there is always someone fighting most weekends. But what Luke enjoys is a glass of red wine with his dinner on the Friday night and he says it has become a tradition for the whole team to go to Nando’s on fight day. (Someone has to take me to Nando’s as I have never been and all I hear from fighters is how wonderful Nando’s is)!
When I asked Luke who he particularly wants to fight he says ‘everybody’. The reason for this is that he thinks he is better than they are. He explains that he is still very young in the sport of MMA but feels he is at the right time and place in his life to challenge anyone in the UK and by doing so he will gain recognition. As Luke points out, the MMA business is about fighting each other and if you aren’t interested in fighting the top guys he advises you to go and work in Primark or something similar. He continues by telling us that he wants to fight anyone who is in the top 10-15 in the country at MW and then once he has accomplished that he intends to move onto the European scene.
When I asked Luke what advice he has for anyone looking to get into MMA, he says anyone who wants to do it to keep fit and learn a few techniques should already be doing it! He says you are to stop reading this interview and get to your nearest MMA club. Erm……….I think we can allow you to read the end of the interview first! For those that want to get into the cage and fight Luke says ‘Don’t do it’! What he means by this is if you are sitting there thinking about whether it is a good idea or not then you are already not right for the sport. He continues to say you need disgusting work ethic and the willingness to sacrifice everything just to get half decent at the sport. It is unlike anything else you can experience sports wise and Luke tells us that is why he thrives on it so much. Luke also says that if you do decide to fight MMA that you have to have the mentality that you are fighting to win not to impress a girlfriend or get a few photos on facebook which Luke points out, too many are already doing.
Luke has learned a lot from the Maguire brothers and says grappling with them is his biggest learning curve. He finds that no matter how good he gets, how strong, fast, athletic or technical, the Maguires still manage to make him feel like a beginner, so when he hits the mats with them he is always reminded that he has a long way to go yet. Luke describes MMA as a dark forest that from the outside doesn’t look so big and scary, when you first walk into the forest it is pretty exciting but when you get deeper into it, it is impossible to find your way out and you become consumed by the forest and have to live with it or die trying.
As we have established, Luke’s life is consumed with MMA and he says his day job is MMA! He teaches the beginners down at Tsunami Gym and does a few private sessions. He says he doesn’t make anywhere near the amount of cash he used to but he survives and loves waking up every day ready to train.
With regards to Luke’s friends and family, he says that his family are starting to come round to the idea of him fighting. To start with it was a dirty secret that no one really spoke of but the more he got into MMA and the more his family see through the misleading image of MMA, the more they understand it is Luke’s dream and a creditable way of living. When it comes to friends, Luke says he has none left as he hasn’t been able to talk to or keep in touch with any of them to know what they think of his chosen career. As Luke said earlier, ‘sacrifices’.
When it comes to other MMA athletes, Luke says he respects plenty and the obvious ones are his team mates but outside of the gym he has a lot of respect for Big Ben Smith, Leeroy Barnes and Peter Irving amongst many more. He explains that these guys are real MMA fighters who train very hard and no matter how good people think they are you know that if you asked them to fight GSP or Anderson Silva or someone similar that they would. And as Luke previously pointed out, that is what this sport is all about, trying to prove yourself and putting yourself through that test, not hiding away and trying to carve out the best path to make money out of it.
We wanted to know how Luke felt about his first Pro Fight and he tells us it was against Chris Grieg of Team Titan who was much more experienced than Luke having had over 15 pro fights and travelled all over the world. At that moment in time, Luke tells us he felt unbeatable as he was coming along in the gym and there was a lot of momentum behind him. Coming off of 5 or 6 straight wins at Semi Pro he just didn’t know how to lose.
On the day of the fight Luke says he felt the pressure really built up and says he will always remember warming up for that fight in a room surrounded by 15+ of his team mates who were all watching and cheering him on. Instead of his confidence building, Luke realised just how many people had been there for him and were banking on him to get the win. He says he got a bit nervous thinking about that and went into the fight lacking a little confidence. But this changed as soon as Chris hit him. He says as soon as that happened, he woke up and started to fight and took him out in Round 2 with a TKO after a huge barrage of knees, elbows and punches.
Luke explains it was probably the best he has felt wining a fight because it was his biggest challenge and turning professional meant a lot to him and of course, he was happy as he made his team mates proud.
Luke has fought on a few different promotions and I wondered if he had a favourite. But Luke says he doesn’t as it is the opponent who counts, not the actual show and as he points out it is just a cage in a hall with you against your opponent at the end of the day. However, he does like different shows for different reasons and wishes some could be merged together! Of Cage Rage, Luke says it has by far the best atmosphere of any UK MMA show he has fought on. BAMMA has the best build up and hype around the show itself and UWC is his local battlefield where he made his Semi-Pro debut and has gone on to have many fights there so Luke feels at home there.
As we have established working with John Maguire and the rest of the guys at Tsunami is hard but rewarding. Of the guys, Luke says training with them can be painful, annoying, emasculating, frustrating but most of all inspiring. He says he is very lucky that he has such a great team not just around him but so close to him. He spends a lot of time with the Maguires and they train together a lot but often it feels demoralizing as no matter how good Luke feels he is, they are always one step ahead! On the day of this interview, Luke had rolled with John and tells us that he felt like crying afterwards but learned three really important lessons so the silver lining is that he is constantly learning but would like to win against them every now and again!
Luke often gets people pulling out on him in the lead up to fights and we wanted to know if he felt they provided genuine reasons for pulling out or if Luke felt like he was being ducked.
Firstly, Luke says that a few is an understatement and goes onto say that since he took out his last opponent in under three minutes he has been searching for his next victim and no one has stepped forward. He says he has been in touch with seven promotions and UWC are the only one that can facilitate him and to do so they are flying someone over from Italy!
So Luke feels that people are of course ducking him. He is unbeaten, an awkward 6’6”, will talk crap about of them, trains out of a fantastic gym, has gypsyjuijitsu and some mean knees and elbows. He tells us it is just a bad day for anyone in the UK so why would they take the risk?
It is a problem for Luke as no one really wants to fight anymore, they just talk the talk and pretend to be MMA athletes to tell their friends and ladies that they are tough. Or they try and hide and build up a half decent record to get a shot at the UFC. Luke says the UFC is killing UK MMA by turning everyone into a bunch of record paranoid pussies who don’t want to get a loss so they can get signed to the big show! But Luke says the thing is, if you can’t beat a pool of talent that is floating around here in the UK, how in the hell do you hope to win a fight in the UFC. His advice is to think on that.
Luke wants you to see the Middleweight Division in no particular order.
He says that is it! There are six of them out there, that actually will fight anyone you throw at them, and they are representing UKMMA. He says everyone else is either running scared or trying to formulate a plot or easy route to the UFC.
Luke comes across confident in both his fighting and his personality yet we don’t find him arrogant. We wanted to know more about this confidence and what he feels about the more arrogant fighters and Luke is quick to tell us that he has always been confident and has his parents to thank for that as they are both strong individuals with a lot of beliefs and opinions that they stick by. Luke’s dad is a music industry photographer and his instilled in Luke from a young age to do what he believes in and not to sell himself out.
When it comes to MMA Luke says you have to be confident if you are serious about going anywhere. He remembers a line from the Rickson Gracie film Choke where one of the competitors who fought him says ‘the confidence that Gracie has because he is champion gives him superiority’. Luke thought about this a lot when he heard it and tries to apply it to his game. He has never won a title but he already considers himself a champion and says he knows, it is just a matter of time before the world finds out about it!
Although confident, Luke says you have to remain humble and he thinks the only reason he has is because he is surrounded by such a wise team who have already been through everything that is happening to him. Without them guiding him he says it would be quite easy to turn his confidence into arrogance because there is a very fine line between the two. Luke says you have to believe that you are the best to ever walk the face of the earth but you have to act like you are still only crawling and mastering how to walk.
Luke is renowned in the industry for his lengthy articles and says that this is probably longer than most he has done which is an honor for us. With his obvious intelligence we are sure there must be many topics that get Luke going. And he tells us he is pretty much a grumpy old man who hates a lot of things. But one of his biggest bugbears is unoriginality or lack of thought which goes for MMA or any subject. He has been brought up with the ideal that if you do something you do it right and put everything into it, don’t give a half assed attempt at it, otherwise what is the point in doing it? Luke carries this mantra with him in training, interviews, work and everything.
Another big bugbear of Luke’s is when he takes the time out of his day to read an interview or watch something on YouTube and he reads things like ‘I’ll do my talking in the cage’. He says it is boring and he doesn’t understand why people do not say what they feel. He goes on to refer to a documentary he watched in the lead up to Nick Chapman’s fight against Jimi Manuwa. He says he took the time out to watch it and there was Nick making himself a ham sandwich and claiming that it was nutritional advice for an athlete. Luke says he thought there was going to be something smart in it but he sat and watched Nick take two pieces of bread, some lettuce, cheese and other stuff including ham and put it all together. Luke was extremely annoyed about this and as you can tell was rather peeved!
The worst thing ever in Luke’s eyes is the MMA pretenders. MMA attracts a lot of people who want to pretend to be something they are not but goes on to say this is the case in all walks of life. He understands the social pressure but says if you are not strong enough to rise above it then you shouldn’t be the sort of person that takes part in something like MMA. He feels half the population of UK MMA are just looking for some sort of way to jazz up their facebook page and Luke says this is what he blames it on! Social media is driving the idiots crazy and it seems that a ‘cage fight’ is something they can compare to a bungee jump or sky dive. Luke says he has finished his rant for today but there is of course so much more that can wait for the next installment of Banter with Bigslow (his words)!
So we come on to the thoughts Luke has on MMA being dangerous and unregulated in the UK. Luke says MMA is a dangerous sport as they are elbowing each other in the face! But goes on to say that no one is forcing you to do it! He says stop your whining! MMA will teach you more about yourself than any other sport on the planet and it takes you to deeper and darker places than most people have ever been making you question who you really are. Luke says the fact that it is dangerous is irrelevant because the sport is not really that dangerous. More people probably get seriously injured playing rugby or driving their cars. The fact is, competing in the sport is pretty dangerous. A lot of people go to Tea Kwon Do all their lives and never get a serious injury because they don’t compete. There are many forms of MMA but you have to do the sport to understand it and unfortunately people just brand it as ‘cage fighting’ and can’t be bothered to take the time to understand it. Luke says he isn’t angry about this but feels sorry for those sorts of people because MMA is not part of their lives and if they are neglecting MMA then imagine what else they are missing out on because it is not the normal thing to do!
When it comes to the regulation, Luke says it is unbelievable how some people act within MMA but feels it is just teething problems as everything new goes through a rough patch. MMA needs to be regulated because there is way too much crap match making, pony shows and bullcrap going on. He says there is more politics in MMA than anyone could ever understand but it is the same in all sports and even business. Luke says it is just life and he tries to deal with it the best he can and hopes that IMMAF will be in full swing soon enough and it’ll sort that all out.
We wondered if Luke had his eye on any up and coming fighters but he says having done quite a few interviews, he is steering clear of naming his team mates because it always sounds like he is saying it because he is friends with them. In this case, he says the only answer is Arnold Allen. Of Arnold, Luke says he is 1-0 as a pro winning against Nathan Grayson at UCMMA. He says he is a phenomenal talent and that he feels blessed to know the man because by the time Arnold is 22, he will be teaching and inspiring Luke instead of how it is now.
Luke also says Nathan Grayson is a beast and now that he is working with Brad Pickett and Jason Young at Team Titan he is sure to come on strong. Ben Callum who Luke beat at UCMMA is now 5-1 and Luke says he is looking unstoppable. And finally Max Nunes gets a mention in the LHW division after he took out Iain Martell. Luke says Max is young and he has known him a while and thinks that Max and New Wave Academy could do some great things. Luke feels that MMA in the UK is really exploding now with some talented fighters and it just takes some shoveling through to find them!
When we spoke to Luke it was back in August and he was due to fight at UWC against Matteo ‘Masterpiece’ Piran. Luke was fighting at 88kg as Matteo didn’t want to make the 84kg! Of his opponent Luke told us that Matteo is a vet of the sport having been around forever with 8 pro wins. He says he has more tattoos than anyone he has ever seen in MMA bar Peter Irving the Ink King.
Luke describes Matteo as a tough dude, but just a staple fighter. He says he hasn’t got anything he hasn’t seen before and he compares him to Chris Grieg who he beat in his pro debut, a very similar build and fighting style, more of a brawler on his feet, a good ground game and half decent wrestler. Luke says he is 10 times better than when he beat Chris Grieg and just couldn’t see Matteo developing enough to keep up with the new breed of MMA fighters coming through.
Luke had been waiting for a fight for so long and had been sharpening his elbows and felt putting a good beat down on Matteo would open up whatever he wanted at Middleweight in the UK! In Luke’s eyes Matteo was a gate keeper to bigger challenges, and he was looking at ripping those gates off the hinges and leaving the cage covered in Matteo Piran’s blood! The fight for Luke was about making a statement. He said if Matteo made it out of the first round with him that he would be upset with himself.
Well the talk was worth it as Luke defeated Matteo by TKO (punches) at 4.17 of Round 1 retaining the undefeated record.
We have had a fantastic time interviewing Luke and are excited about watching him continue up the ranks. If by chance he ever needs a rest, we feel that with his superb ability to talk/write he could always pursue a hobby as a writer. Thanks to Luke for a brilliant interview and no doubt we will catch up with him again soon. We would also like to thank Sports 311 Photography for use of the fantastic images.
To close, Luke would like to thank the following people.
“I want to thank my sponsors: Dynamic Fightwear – @dynamicfight For supplying me with everything I need to train and supporting me… great guys down there and brilliant shop
QNTUK Supplements – @QNTUK Building champions and fueling my body
Tsunami Gym – @TsunamiGym Everyone I train with and the support I get from the gym itself without it I would be nowhere.
Sports 311 – @Factory311 A dynamic imagery company that add a bit of design to my life with photos and PR
Everyone who’s took the time to ever spend their money to go see any MMA show live! And even more love to those who have come to support me!
Matteo Piran! For training his ass off, and turning up to come fight me on Sept 1st
UWC – @UWCUK
For having me on the show and treating me so well! I’m gonna put on a show for you guys
And of course to you! For the interview and taking the time to read all this bullcrap 😉
Hope you enjoyed it!
Make sure you’re following me on Twitter @LukeBarnatt and you make it to my next fight”