This Friday at GLORY 24 Wayne Barrett is set to return from an absence from the ring to fight recent GLORY tournament winner Dustin Jacoby. For many, Wayne Barrett is one of those raw talents in kickboxing who could easily become a major player for years to come, which is especially rare considering that he is an American. Perhaps the feather in the cap of his relatively young kickboxing career is a win over Joe Schilling. The Schilling win came at a time when many saw Schilling as unstoppable, putting a considering dent in the armor of the myth that was Joe Schilling at the time. The win over Bogdan Stoica that came at GLORY’s Last Man Standing tournament was purely academic at that point.
After that, though, things haven’t been all sunshine and happiness for Wayne Barrett. On a three fight skid right now, Barrett elected to take time off to get his head back into the game. “You know, they offered me fights, man. They offered me fights to get myself a win, to build my confidence up and everyone thought that I should do it, but I turned them down. What’s the point if I’m not the Wayne Barrett that I truly believe that I can be? I took time for myself,” he explained. “And let me tell you, I feel incredible right now. This fight is all about me, it’s all about Wayne and getting everything right.”
What he means is that during his time away from the ring he made sure that everything was in order in his personal life as well as his professional life. As a father it was important to him to feel that he was doing his best and to set the right kind of example. A lot of that had to do with how he was training, as well. “I went through so many coaches at this point, I’ve had coaches telling me what to do, trying to change me and make me more of an orthodox fighter. But that isn’t who I am. I’ve got, for lack of a better word, a sort of swagger to me and how I fight. I’m unlike anyone else in the world in the ring and that’s what I bring to the table, so I’m not trying to be someone else anymore, I’m just being me right now.”
I brought up a young Rico Verhoeven, who at the time was incredibly talented with a ton of potential, but if you would go back and watch Rico’s early fights you’ll see a stiff, rigid and uncomfortable Verhoeven. The confidence to be himself wasn’t quite there yet compared to the Rico Verhoeven of today. “Oh man, absolutely,” he was getting excited now. “I love Rico, man. He’s just incredible. He’s his own man out there. Does he honor the whole Dutch style? Of course he does, but he’s making it his own, what he’s doing is an evolution. That’s how I view myself. They wanted me to do this you kick-I kick thing and that wasn’t who I am so it just didn’t work.”
Barrett, while in his late 20’s, is still relatively fresh into his professional career. “My second professional fight,” he said, “that was in the GLORY ring against a guy like Mike Lemaire.” Indeed it was his second professional fight, that fight being a knockout of Lemaire. What is astonishing about Barrett’s professional career is that upon joining GLORY he was immediately thrust into the spotlight, fighting some of the biggest names in the world. He stepped into the ring for his fourth professional fight against Joe Schilling, arguably the top dog in the division at that time, and he didn’t only handle himself well, but he won. There was no carefully curated career here, Barrett was simply there, with a rocket strapped to his back going full steam ahead.
When it came time for him to step into the ring with the notorious Romanian slugger Bogdan Stoica he felt ready, although the more that we talked about how kickboxing worked overseas, the more he opened up about how different his career has been. “There is no padding on my record,” he laughed. “I remember looking at Stoica’s record and thinking -- as a fan -- that I had no clue who some of these people that he was crushing were. Even some of the guys who beat him I had never heard of before.” The fight ended with Stoica going down to a left hook, Barrett moving forward in the tournament only to meet Joe Schilling. When I brought up the decision and how there was controversy over it he quickly interjected, “You could say that again.”
Even if his next two fights were indeed losses, one to Jason Wilnis and one to Simon Marcus, they were still against two of the top fighters within the division. While most would look at that, shrug and take an easy fight, Barrett decided to go back to the drawing board and wait for another opportunity down the line. Now, though? “I’m going full force now,” he said. “I want to fight again this year, as long as they’ll let me. I think they probably will. Then next year I want to stay as active as I can.”
Tournaments, though, don’t seem to be in the immediate future for Wayne Barrett. “Nah,” he said. “Just single fights for me right now. Too much is out of your control in those tournaments. In the future? Yeah, if there is a big tournament I’ll be a part of it, but I want to focus on one opponent for right now and I want to prove to everyone that Wayne Barrett really is as good as everyone thinks that he can be. Man,” he laughed. “Now I’m talking in third person about myself. I still can’t believe that I’m at that point where I can talk to people about myself in third person.”
What I took away from my time talking to Wayne Barrett is that he’s in a very, very good place right now. He’s both mentally and physically ready for the road ahead and understands that while it was sort of shocking to initially see himself on a list as a top middleweight that he has to keep proving himself and earn his top spot. We’ll see what he brings to the table against Dustin Jacoby at GLORY 24 on Friday night in Denver.