Middleweight fighter Leeroy Barnes makes his return to BAMMA this weekend in a mouthwatering bout with UK MMA favourite Denniston Sutherland. Ahead of the fight, Barnes talks about growing up, getting involved in MMA and, most importantly, why he’s learned from the mistakes he’s made.
Starting out his sporting life as a track and field athlete, an injury forced Barnes to reconsider his chosen sport and, it was while working as a doorman Barnes was given a new opportunity. “I was a huge MMA fan but didn’t know how to get into it,” explains Barnes, “Then I found out some of the lads who I worked on the doors with were training MMA so I went along with them.”
“I was a little shit when I was growing up,” laughs the middleweight, “I was always getting into fights and stuff. Track and Field took me away from that and gave me a focus but I loved watching MMA. I loved how it was fighting but it involved so much more skill.”
“It wasn’t just the fighting and the skill though,” Barnes continues, “it had so much physical and mental conditioning. For me at that time in my life not only was I huge fan of the sport but it had everything I was looking for.”
And with the TV cameras beaming out his forthcoming BAMMA fight to hundreds of thousands of prospective new MMA fighters, Barnes is honest in his advice: “Don't rush. Get as much experience as you can at amateur level before making the jump to professional level. Make your mistakes as an amateur and learn from them, mistakes don't go away as a pro.
“I've made every mistake you can in this sport but I've learnt from every single one. And compete in grappling tournaments and anything else you can to gain experience but most of all enjoy it.”
Clearly a man who is enjoying his fighting, Barnes promises fight fans a show with or without the TV cameras: “The TV deal has nothing to do with it, if I was fighting in somebody's kitchen at a party I would want people to wake up the next day phone their mates and say how ‘How sick was that fight last night?’
“I want people to enjoy watching me do what I do, and I want people to remember and talk about my fights. I want people to see one of my fights having never seen MMA and become a fan of the sport. I always come to put on a show regardless.”
And BAMMA punters and TV viewers can expect fireworks when the middleweight clashes with Denniston Sutherland at Wembley Arena this weekend. “I’ve seen a lot of Denniston’s fights,” tells Barnes, “but I’ve not studied anything specific as MMA fights can go anywhere.
“We’re probably both going to be fighting off a blank canvas as he probably won’t learn anything from watching my fights at welterweight. I’ve changed my game so much although I think the secret about my ground game is out but I’m ready for anything.”
Despite brimming with confidence, Barnes is well aware of his opponents experience but states: “I’m expecting a tough fight and I know I will be tested but, at this stage in my career. I need to be fighting and beating top fighters to continue in the right direction.”
And with his fight career clearly on the up, Barnes finishes with a promise for BAMMA fans: “It’s just business, I liked Denniston so I want us to put on a show and have Wembley Arena on its feet.”