Luke “Bigslow” Barnatt is a 25 year old professional mixed martial artist from Cambridge, England competing in the UFC’s Middleweight division. Barnatt is currently undefeated as a pro, holding an unblemished 6-0 record and he recently competed on season 17 of “The Ultimate Fighter” as a member of Team Sonnen. “Bigslow” most recently won his UFC debut by unanimous decision at the TUF 17 finale and his next fight will be taking place on October 26th at UFC Fight Night 30 against Andrew Craig.
I recently spoke to Luke about his time on “The Ultimate Fighter”, his upcoming fight, and the story behind the nickname:
When did you start training MMA and what made you decide that fighting is what you want to do as a profession?
MMA started for me in April 2009… when I built a friendship with Jack Mason a formidable force in the UK Middleweight division at the time, he took me into the Tsunami Gym where I was welcomed by the Maguire brothers & AJ Wenn with a beating, I grew a thirst for the sport very quickly and was determined to be the one dishing out the beatings & not receiving them. So kept going back. It wasn’t till 2011 when I decided to take the sport seriously I just started waking up in the morning & thinking how I could fit as much training in around my job & life as possible and the ultimate decision was to give up my living, move into a the gym & train full time to become a success. In life to be successful you have to do things you don’t like. So I made the sacrifices with a goal in mind.
Speaking of the Tsunami gym, do you see yourself staying there for the rest of your career or eventually moving to the states to train at one of the more popular gyms among pro fighters?
This is a topic really close to my heart, I love the Tsunami Gym and they’ve created me. Without them I wouldn’t be half the athlete I am, a truly talented group of individuals. But I have visions of world titles & longevity in the UFC, with my strong links to Chael (Sonnen) & already having completed a camp with him in the states I can see the benefits of training in the states. The main one for me is finding experienced very high level big guys, in the UK we have a wealth of talent in the Featherweight-Lightweight-Welterweight divisions, but once you hit Middleweight it’s very hard to find training partners, so I can see me moving to the states for camps 3-4 months at a time. But Tsunami will always be my home.
You recently competed on season 17 of The Ultimate Fighter, what did you take away from that experience?
TUF17 launched my career into the main stream… the amount of exposure I got from TUF was crazy & over whelming. It was the most positive experience not just in MMA but my entire life. It’s a once of a lifetime opportunity & obviously it was challenging, but anything worth while in life is.
The last time you fought was at the TUF 17 finale, which was six months ago. Any reason for the long layoff, or did the UFC just want to save you for the Manchester card?
Like I said earlier I’ve been doing MMA since April 2009. Since that day I’ve been extremely active. I had 10 amateur fights as well as three Thai fights, one amateur boxing, six pro & my three on TUF17, plus countless grappling competitions. So I competed 23 times from September 2009 – April 2013 with no previous competitive background it was quiet an influx. So I decided to have a full two months off following TUF17 because I had a fractured orbital socket & separated AC joint in my shoulder from competing in the house. It just made sense to wait for Manchester! I’m glad I did.
Announcing myself as the next big thing to come out of the UK to the fans in Manchester. Bisping & Tom Watson are out injured & I’m out to prove I’m worthy of grasping the fans attention and they should be proud to have me representing this great country. As well as kicking some American ass.
Haha. Although I’m an American myself I have to say I’m rooting for ya! … As for your opponent, you’re facing Andrew Craig, is there anything he does well that could possibly pose a problem for you?
I honestly am ecstatic about my opponent. He’s ranked in the top 25 in the UFC with big wins over tough guys like Chris Leben & Rafael Natal so there’s so much for me to gain from getting a convincing W over him. I’m extremely confident that he doesn’t possess anything I can’t handle. He likes to stand & bang which suits me down to the ground. But I think his biggest strength is survival. He has a very good ability of coming back after a near finish, so he has a lot of heart & is comfortable with the uncomfortable, hence never being finished inside the octagon with his one loss coming via decision. Which gives this bout huge FOTN indications. So my goal is to be the first to finish Craig & do it impressively to kick start my run for UFC Middleweight gold.
“And your winner by _________ Luke “Bigslow” Barnatt!” The fight’s over and Bruce Buffer has announced you as the winner. Fill in the blank, how do you envision yourself winning this fight?
Knockout. I always have a vision of a brutal finish. But I won’t be chasing it… whatever comes to me naturally on the day. Forcing a finish is the mistake everyone Craig has faced have made, I’ve got the skills to win this fight at any moment so let’s see how it happens.
Prediction time. The main event of the card you will be fighting on is Lyoto Machida vs Mark Munoz, which also happens to be taking place in the same weight class you compete in. Who do you like in that fight?
Obviously really upset that Mike (Bisping) had to pull out of this…. got to hear his story on the UFC World Podcast with Gareth A Davis & it’s pretty fascinating. With the new match up I’m very excited about Machida coming to the UK. I met him in Vegas when I fought & he’s a very interesting guy who spoke to me about my fight & was very complimentary. Mark is on a new level right now & I think he’s got a lot of momentum building going into this fight… so its a very interesting match up. I just think Machida is such an unusual style for Mark to battle on three weeks notice & I can see Machida getting a KO similar to his title win over Rashad Evans. But I like both guys & am just hoping they put it on the line for the UK fans who have lost the local lad fighting!
Agreed. Lastly, I have to ask, where did the the Bigslow nickname originate? What’s the story behind it?
I get asked this A LOT.
It started back with my first session at Tsunami Gym. The Maguire brothers were insulting me and I just couldn’t keep up with the banter… so they said look at this guys he’s big & slow, he’s the Bigslow…. so it started as an insult & they used to call me it around the gym so I embraced it & became the Bigslow. I had many nicknames but that’s the first one that’s ever stuck. So basically I got given it by two gypsy fighting brothers insulting me.
Luke, I really want to thank you for taking the time out to do this interview. Best of luck to you in your upcoming fight and career. Is there anything you would like to add? Any shout-outs?
Cheers Chris. Happy to answer the Q’s, it’s all good! I don’t do shout-outs, just follow me on Twitter @LukeBarnatt to find out more about The Bigslow.