Speculation that Muay Thai world champion Iman Barlow had signed with GLORY Kickboxing quickly thrust the Leicester born fighter into the international spotlight.
It was a ‘whirlwind weekend’ for Barlow, embroiled in the media hype. Although it soon came crashing down, with the 23 year-old announcing her GLORY departure just 48 hours after the initial report.
Barlow was set to join the likes of Tiffany van Soest, Isis Verbeek and Zoila Frausto in GLORY’s new Super-Bantamweight division. The inaugural champion was set to be decided through an eight-woman Grand Prix which Barlow was seeded No.1.
The Team Assassins fighter was scheduled to make her debut, June 25 at GLORY 31: Amsterdam against Isis Verbeek, a prospect which excited Barlow.
She explained: “At first it was when I was in Slovakia, with Enfusion. They said that they would be able to get me a fight on GLORY. Which I was surprised about. It came about and I was fighting Isis [Verbeek], I know Isis, we did the [Enfusion] Reality show together. I thought ‘what a good fight’ and a good stage to be on. I thought nothing of it, I had a week off and that was the fight I was training for next.”
The young Muay Thai sensation was invited to attend the unveiling in Los Angeles, but was unable to fly out on such short notice. Oblivious to the ongoing events in California, Barlow soon came to realise that her proposed GLORY deal wasn’t as she expected.
“I woke up Friday morning and saw all over the internet that it had been announced that I was in a tournament. Now, I’d known nothing about this tournament,” claimed a confused Barlow. “I knew Tiffany had also signed for GLORY a few weeks earlier, so I thought maybe I fight Isis and then down the line they’ll want me to fight Tiffany.”
The current 54kg Enfusion champion explained that she had never dealt directly with GLORY; that was the role of her manager Edwin van Os, also the CEO of Enfusion. Barlow explained that for the most part, she was in the dark during the negotiations.
“I just thought it was really unorganised. Also, I’ve not spoke to GLORY directly, it’s been through Enfusion. They still manage me until September. I believe they are being honest with me and that’s all the communication that we’ve got.
“I was shocked about that [tournament] and because everyone was so excited I got on the hype and then when my Dad looked into it and we got a contract sent through, it was just a bit ridiculous.”
Initially, van Os had contacted Barlow following the Super-Bantamweight press conference, clarifying the big money opportunity – $25,000 to be precise. But having debated with her father, “Pretty Killer” made the decision to end her GLORY adventure before it had even begun.
“We just decided to withdraw but also, I’d not been told a weight, I’d presumed it was at 54kg. It’s a lot higher but it’s not just that but the fact that some of the girls are coming down from fighting at 61kg, imagine what they walk round that.
“Of course it’s a good opportunity but you’ve got to think of yourself. They’re not the one’s getting in the ring, I am, so me and my Dad came to a decision and told Edwin. After a while he kind of agreed and realised that it was really exciting, whirlwind weekend but you’ve got to do what’s right.”
The ‘complicated’ GLORY contract had given Barlow clarity, but not in a way she would have hoped for. The young women who had made a career fighting at 54kg, would have to fight against much bigger opponents, in the 55.5kg division. However, she admitted that the weight difference wasn’t the only reason behind her decision to decline the contract.
“[Weight] wasn’t the main reason, no way. That was just another factor that added to it. That probably didn’t help, if it was at 54kg, then maybe we would have been edging but that’s just another factor that added on. The contract was complicated, I didn’t understand it, it was 15 pages long. I wouldn’t have ended up having any fights within a year. I couldn’t fight six weeks before a fight or six weeks after, so there’s three months gone. I’ve had three fights in three months, that’s what I love in fighting. The GLORY is all good but at the end of the day I just want to fight.”
The marquee fight of the new GLORY Super-Bantamweight division was the potential van Soest and Barlow match-up. With both fighters on the opposite side of the brackets, it was undoubtedly GLORY’s most likely endgame. Despite stepping away from the GLORY ring, Barlow is still optimistic that she will one day face the highly regarded van Soest.
“I think the fight will happen, I’m more than willing to fight her,” she said. “But it’s got to be the right time, the right place, it’s got to be done professionally and this was not done professionally at all. It’s obviously communication gone wrong. The contract it restricted me and that’s not what I planned. I’m just excited to get back to fighting, I need fights.”
The multiple time world champion stated that her current deal with Enfusion is set to expire in September. Barlow admitted that she expects to re-sign a ‘more lenient’ deal which will allow her to fight in certain other promotions.
In the meantime, Barlow looks to make waves on her own, once again focusing solely on Muay Thai. As for potentially joining GLORY in the future, Barlow certainly holds an open mind.
“I’d never rule anything out, obviously if they’d have me back. When it came along it wasn’t at the right time for me, I know a lot of people would jump at the chance, and I did. Then I realised it was not the right choice for me, it’s come at the wrong time. I’ve got a lot of opportunities at the minute on offer and even though GLORY is a huge stage it’s not all about that sometimes. It’s not all about the money, it’s about the love I have deep down.”