Atlas Fights 54 brought about the much anticipated return of combat sports on the Gulf Coast in spectacular fashion! In spite of the great difficulties presented by the Covid-19 pandemic, fighter, fan and staff safety were held to the utmost regard, and 8 mixed martial arts bouts rocked the cage, reverberating the echos of a return to some piece of normalcy. Atlas Fights looks to repeat that success with Atlas Fights 55, Saturday August 22nd, from the Mississippi Coast Coliseum in Biloxi, Mississippi. As usual, Atlas has put together a stud of a fight card, culminating in two title fights (the Atlas Fights Amateur Flyweight title and the Atlas Fights Professional Welterweight title).
Fighting out of the Port City Kickboxing Academy in Mobile, Alabama, “Iron” Mike Barnett is 10-2 in his professional MMA career. If you don’t already know Mike Barnett, here’s a brief introduction: Mike is an extraordinarily inspiring individual – he’s a professional fighter, a dedicated husband and father, and a Mobile police officer. Mike fights Jesse Butler this Saturday night, August 22nd, for Atlas Fights 55, in Biloxi, Mississippi, so we sat down with him to learn about his journey and career, and about what he expects from Butler this weekend.
Every superhero has an origin story. What’s yours? Where do you come from? What got you into fighting?
I’m from a small desert town in California called Barstow. My dad was in the Army and we were stationed at nearby Ft. Irwin. I grew up like most kids in the 90’s watching anime and playing ball sports. So, I always had an interest in martial arts, but never had an opportunity to train. After high school I moved to the Gulf Coast to be closer to my family and began attending the University of South Alabama. While pursuing my degree, I knew I’d be going into law enforcement and I thought learning some hand-to-hand combat would help. I actually took a Muay Thai lesson with my best friend back home in CA while visiting and then (again) when I got back to Mobile. I looked up a gym, found the Port City Kickboxing Academy and dove right into training. I took my first fight a few months later, (and) it went pretty well for me. The rest is history.
What’s a typical week like for you?
A typical week for me is very busy. My work schedule varies weekly and monthly, but generally I wake up and go for a run, and then come back and help my wife with the babies for a little. Then I’ll take a nap with my son and get up and I’ll go do my first training session – usually mitt work. After that I’ll get ready to teach some kids classes and then depending on my work schedule, I’ll either get ready for a night shift or prepare for my grappling classes. I run 5 days a week and do my S&C twice a week. I’m usually so busy I have just enough time to get the right amount of sleep so I’m really working on my time management.
“Being a fighter has given me a deeper insight into who I am as person.”
Where are you training, and who do you get rounds in with?
I train at the Port City Kickboxing Academy In Mobile. I have awesome training partners and teammates including Brok Weaver, Justin Prescott, Mark Kolker, Kenny Gover, Cam Teague, Roman Ecker, Arron Shirazi, Blake Collum, Robert Pierce and a host of others. I would also like to shout out my coaches, my Head Coach Jimmy “Cornbread ” Mills, my MMA Striking coach Randy “El Papi” James, my Muay Thai coach Chris Lovell, my wrestling coach Adam Hicks and my Grappling Coaches Jacob “El Jacobo Loco” Jeffers, and Marcus Graham.
What do you like most about fighting?
I love the combination of mental and physical toughness fighting requires. Being a fighter has given me a deeper insight into who I am as person and helped me stay self-disciplined. I love the competition and the challenge of fighting, too.
“When you know you can fight, you don’t ever have to try and prove it.”
How does being a police officer better you as a fighter?
Being a police officer has helped in my MMA career by allowing me to always keep things in perspective. Fighting is dangerous and can be nerve-racking, but I usually do something significantly more dangerous at work. So I keep the nerves of fighting in check by comparing them to calls (that) I’ve responded to.
How does being a fighter better you as a police officer?
Fighting has helped my law enforcement career by giving me the ability to handle unruly subjects without impact weapons (tasers, batons, OC spray etc). Having the ability and the confidence that comes with that earns respect among people I deal with and my coworkers. Additionally, the confidence that comes with being able to fight well helps you stay calm when people are trying to get a rise out of you. I often tell people when you know you can fight, you don’t ever have to try and prove it.
What was it like the first time that you stepped into the cage?
The first time I stepped into a cage was exhilarating. I fought a strong guy from Florida and won by a submission in the first or second round, after some good exchanges. I remember at the time trying to control my nerves by telling myself it was no different than any of the team sports games I had played in my whole life.
What’s the biggest challenge you face fighting?
The biggest challenge in fighting is coming back from a loss. We put so much into this, time, blood, sweat, tears, and when you don’t come out victorious it can be really taxing mentally, emotionally and physically, of course. Early in my career a loss would put me in a funk for days (I’m a poor, but gracious loser). But as I’ve gotten older and grown my family, I’ve been able to bounce back quicker because I’m doing a better and better job of keeping things in perspective.
“If I keep doing well I think I’ll get my shot – keep winning and stay prepared and they will find you.”
You’re fighting Jesse Butler at Atlas Fights 55 on August 22nd. He’s got a ton of experience (25 total fights including amateur and professional careers) and he’s the #3 ranked Featherweight in Louisiana. Without revealing too much, what do you think he brings to this fight, and what have you been doing to prepare?
Fighting Jesse Butler at Atlas Fights 55 is going to be a challenge. He’s a tough guy who looks well-rounded and has been fighting really well as of late. I think he brings a complete game and I’m excited for the challenge. To prepare I have been working really hard at my overall MMA game, so that I am closer to bringing a complete game.
You’re currently sitting at 10-2 and you’ve only lost 1 out of your last 11 fights. You are by far one of the most promising prospects on the Gulf Coast. What do you think you need to do to get your shot at the next level?
To get my shot at the next level I think I need to win this fight. With the pandemic and lots of places being shut down, a lot of people are unable to fight or train so if I keep doing well I think I’ll get my shot – keep winning and stay prepared and they will find you.
How have you been staying sane during the Covid-19 pandemic and the quarantine? Has it affected your training at all?
Covid has affected the entire world and I feel for everyone out there. Personally it hasn’t slowed me down much at all. I’ve been lucky enough to still go to work everyday and afford my bills, and train 1-on-1 or in small groups with my coaches/ training partners. I also have used this time to learn more about S&C because I may get some personal training certifications and even began trying to learn Spanish. Lastly, my son is 1.5 years old and I have a 2 month old daughter so I’m very busy when I’m not training or working.
Do you have anything that you’d like to plug? Would you like to shout-out your school/coaches/sponsors?
I would like to thank everyone who supports me and all the guys at the Port City Kickboxing Academy who have helped me prepare. I have to thank my wife Sierra who runs our household and takes care of so many things while I do all this stuff. I also have to thank my sponsors Clean Eatz of Mobile, Rock n Roll Sushi, Makotek Mouth Guards, The Mediterranean Sandwich Shop, and Rhonda M. Shirazi’s Tax Services. I could not do what I do without the support of everyone so thank you all!
If you liked this article, don’t forget to share, like and subscribe – and go ahead and like our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram @fightsportfocus. You can catch Mike in his upcoming fight with Jesse Butler at Atlas Fights 55 on Saturday, August 22nd, from the Mississippi Gulf Coast Coliseum in Biloxi, Mississippi. To purchase tickets, please visit http://www.atlasfights.com/ or http://www.mscoastcoliseum.com.