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· On The Spot ~ Leeroy Barnes

· Article author: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Posted on 02/11 at 03:36 AM

On the Feb. 26, 2011 the British Association of Mixed Martial Arts (BAMMA) returns with their fifth, and strongest, event to date at the M.E.N. Arena in Manchester, England. Headlining the card will be the ever-controversial and equally exciting knockout artist Paul "Semtex" Daley who faces off against Japanese welterweight sensation and Deep Champion Yuya Shirai. The card is packed from top to bottom with both international and homegrown talent, including former UFC fighters Ricco Rodriguez, James Mcweeney and Xavier Foupa-Pokam.

The event is also set to air on free television on the Syfy channel, which will provide substantial exposure for the crop of talented domestic fighters on the card. One such fighter is Wolfslair Academy’s welterweight powerhouse Lee "Leeroy" Barnes.

MMA Spot's Jamie Kennedy caught up with Barnes to find out how his preparations were going in the build up to one of the most anticipated cards in U.K. MMA history.

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Jamie Kennedy: Thank you for taking the time to speak with MMA Spot ahead of your up coming bout at BAMMA 5. How does it feel to be fighting on such an anticipated card?
Lee Barnes: It feels top to be honest; I'm really excited about this show and to be on BAMMA full stop. Its such a stacked card and I'm pretty high up the running order, a lot higher than I thought I would be with all the great names fighting. This just makes me want to perform even better for the opportunity that BAMMA have given me.

Kennedy: The event will be shown on free TV, on the Syfy channel. What do you feel the added exposure will do for your career?
Barnes: I think it will do wonders to be honest. I've fought on free TV in the U.K. before, a few years ago when I was in the lightweight division. But I was really struggling with my weight and had some confidence issues and did not perform very well at all. This time will be different, things are really clicking for me now and I believe in my ability. I don’t think you'll hear anybody say any of my fights have ever been boring, so its going to be a great chance to showcase myself when I'm the best "Leeroy" I've ever been.

Kennedy: You will be facing Mohsen Bahari who seems to be a bit of an unknown quantity. How much do you know about him, and how have you adjusted your training in order to face him?
Barnes: Yeah, to many he is an unknown quantity. After hours on the internet sourcing DVD's and making phone calls I managed to find out some stuff and get some footage on him. He's a good fighter from a good gym, very capable in all areas, but likes to stand. In fact I think he is the perfect fight for me to showcase my whole skill set—I've not changed anything specifically for this camp, I was training anyway and have just come off a recent fight camp and quick win. I think I have too much to offer Bahari ("Onion Bahji" I call him, as I can't pronounce his name) both in the way of good looks and skills, so I'm just making sure I'm as fit and healthy as I can be when we meet at the M.E.N.

Kennedy: You train at the famous Wolfslair Academy alongside UFC fighters Michael Bisping, Kurt Warburton, Rampage Jackson, Cheick Kongo and Tom
Blackedge; is it your ultimate career goal to join them on the UFC roster?

Barnes: Of course it is, there are so many great promotions out there with BAMMA and internationally, like Strikeforce, that I would love to fight on. But anybody with half a brain cell knows that the UFC is the pinnacle of the sport. It's our Olympics—the very top. It is my ultimate goal to fight in the UFC and obviously training day-in and day-out with such a great team just inspires me more to achieve it. I don’t make the sacrifices and do the things I do to just hang around local shows for the rest of my career. If I was ever given that chance you would be in for one hell of a scrap, because I don't come to grind out a points victory and I don't get paid for overtime. I want to put people away and put them away fast.

Kennedy: Aside from fighting, you are also known for your sharp wit and can often indulge in a touch of the old "smack talk." Is this an intended career move or just you having a little fun?
Barnes: No, I'm just naturally dead funny [laughs]. Am I really? [yes] Well that’s good to know, I'm just having fun, really, and being myself. I'm like that all the time, even with my friends. Its more playful banter than smack talk, and the funny thing is I never start it—somebody will start talking smack about me, but my comebacks seem to get all the attention. Most people seem to find it funny, and if it puts a smile on somebody's face when they are sitting, reading an interview or watching YouTube, then I’m happy. After all, this is a sport, but it's also an entertainment business, and if I offend my opponent what is he going to do? Punch me in the face?

Kennedy: Is it safe to say this is the biggest fight of your career so far?
Barnes: Every fight is a big fight, and my next fight is always bigger than my last fight. But yes, I think it's safe to say that with the size of the show and the exposure it's getting, that this is a very big fight for me, and one I'm taking very seriously. I'm the best I've ever been and I'm ready to showcase that fact.

Kennedy: What would this win do for your career?
Barnes: To be completely honest, I'm not sure. It might put my name out there a bit more and get me in the minds and ears of a few more people that maybe were not aware of me. It's great to face an opponent from mainland Europe, but I don’t think it's like any major international shows or anything would be looking at me at this point. I'm 7-2 as a welterweight but still making up for my losses at lightweight. People just see my record and don't distinguish the weights. If an international promotion wanted me, I would definitely go, but realistically I think it's just another stepping stone.

Kennedy: Being not too far away from Manchester how much support will you have in the arena and how will that affect your performance?
Barnes: To be honest, during the past 12 months the support I've had everywhere I have fought has been awesome. A lot of people seem to be getting behind me and I really appreciate that. I live 30 minutes away from Manchester and a lot of my friends have already been buying tickets. I love Manchester and just fighting at the M.E.N. Arena is going to be amazing! I expect I will have a lot of support on the night, but just the fantastic support I have in general puts pressure on me to perform, and I don't say pressure in a bad way—I thrive on it and want to pay everybody that follows me back with an awesome exciting, arse-off-your-seat performance.

Kennedy: As a lightweight you were mainly known as predominantly a stand up fighter, but since your move to welterweight you seem to be becoming a lot more well-rounded. What can we expect from this fight?
Barnes: Yeah, everybody knows that my stand up, and especially my boxing, is my strongest point—it's no secret. I don’t think it's the fact that I've become more well-rounded, but the fact that I'm far more comfortable at the weight and have the confidence to use all my skills now. I have strong wrestling and I'm confident in any range. It’s exciting to stand, but if you want me to take a limb home, keep your watch on—I need the cash!

Kennedy: How do you see the fight playing out?
Barnes: To be honest, I don’t really know, I have ideas and things we work on in the gym, but I don’t keep a specific game plan. My last fight went exactly as I planned in my head, but this is MMA and it doesn't always work out that way. I don't see this fight lasting too long; I’m a lot bigger than Bahari, a lot faster and a lot more explosive. As soon as he feels my power and strength it will only be a matter of time before he is getting tucked in back at the hotel and his free weekend in Manchester is coming to violent and bitter end.

Kennedy: Is there anyone you'd like to thank or mention?
Barnes: Thanks to MMA Spot for having me. All my coaches at the Wolfslair, Mario Sukata, Mark Kinney, Dave Jackson, my personal boxing coach and mentor Alan Levene, all my team mates mentioned above and sparring partners, my strength and conditioning coach Barrie Edwards. James Walsh for helping me out with the BAMMA deal, all my sponsors for there continued support, including www.bodyactive-online.co.uk, www.fightshop.com, SANDEE, www.iamsenshi.com, www.cagedsteel.com and www.portalsecurity.co.uk and everybody that follows me and supports me, thanks people! Keep up to date with me at www.facebook.com/leeroymma.


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