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Friday, 03/21/2014, 07:54 am

Barnatt On McGregor: ‘You don’t have to represent the sport badly’

I’m starting to wonder if there’s anyone left in the UFC who doesn’t have some level of drama going on with Connor McGregor.

Luke Barnatt, a member of The Ultimate Fighter 17 roster, recently sat down with Jonathan Shrager of MMA.TV and spoke about his issues with McGregor, as well as his fantastic start to his professional UFC career (he’s currently 3-0):

Jonathan Shrager: You catapulted into the mainstream MMA consciousness via your stint on The Ultimate Fighter 17. During the show, it became apparent that you’d managed to foster a fantastic rapport with the man, the myth, the legend Chael Sonnen, one of sport’s most intriguing characters. You subsequently went to live and train with Chael out in Oregon. Can you provide any insights into Chael away from the camera? I presume Mrs.Sonnen never threatened you with a shotgun like she did with Yushin Okami?

Luke Barnatt: Yeah, Yushin Okami is one of the guys who comes over and stays with Chael, but unfortunately Chael got married, so I think his wife put an end to that. I rented an apartment close to the gym, trained with Chael every single day for nearly 4 months, and I was one of his main sparring partners whilst he was training to fight Jon Jones. Obviously, my length helped for that.

But yes, The Ultimate Fighter catapulted me into the mainstream, into the limelight, so that people knew who I was. I still believe TUF is the best way to get into the UFC. Some people call it a shortcut, but you get the most publicity. An example is I hang around with other UFC fighters, and fans will come up and speak to me because they know me from The Ultimate Fighter. They’ll just ignore the other guys. They don’t even know who the other guys are. And they’ll be higher level UFC fighters.

No, that never happened to me. That was funny. I remember he told us that story on The Ultimate Fighter. It was hilarious…Claudia, I spent a lot of time with her. She was over in England recently, and we emailed back-and-forth. She didn’t try and shoot me, but we’re pretty close.

Chael is the nicest guy in the world. Literally the nicest man I’ve ever met, the most polite man I’ve ever met. He really is a fantastic advocate for the sport. He had the whole Anderson Silva saga, and people thought he was a horrible person, and wondered how he could say those things. But I’ve never met a man who would bend over backwards so much for anyone. He tried to give me money, he lent us his van. He was making it so easy for us, and he should’ve been concentrating on fighting. Just a really great guy, and a great inspiration. He lives up to the person you think he is. When you meet him, he is that guy. You can tell when he’s putting on an act, and when he is who he is.

Jonathan Shrager: I recently observed your back-and-forth with Conor McGregor. Did you catch his retort on Ariel Helwani’s MMA Hour to your initial allegation of purchased Twitter followers? What was your reaction to it? Will you shake his hand if you cross paths this week?

Luke Barnatt: Yes, I did talk about Conor, but I never said Conor bought followers. I said his management company bought followers. I don’t think Conor even knows about it. I still don’t think he knows about it. I watched his retort, and it’s exactly what you expect from a man like Conor. The thing about this whole situation is I haven’t got a bad word to say about Conor McGregor. It came off like I was having a dig at him, but I wasn’t. I was talking about the management company, and the idea of buying followers on Twitter. I just used him as an example. Because he’s such an iconic figure at the moment, everyone jumped on it, claiming that I hate Conor McGregor, which isn’t true. And then I have Conor tweeting me calling me a big ugly whatever.

To be honest, it’s exactly what I expected from Conor, and it’s sort of what’s wrong with the sport in a way. A guy like Ariel Helwani, who is responsible for so much of the media, as the MMA Hour is huge, has a guy like Conor on his show and he talks like that. If Kobe Bryant, or someone huge like David Beckham went and did an interview like that on a mainstream media outlet like The MMA Hour, he would be fined, he would lose sponsors. It’s not good for the sport for people to be out there saying those things, even if it is a fight sport. I just think it was a negative thing for the sport, that whole saga, and I try and put it behind me, and I don’t talk about it, because the reaction from Conor was exactly what I don’t want. I struggle to get my mum to watch MMA, so imagine if she watched that interview?! She would never watch it again. I don’t agree with that method. I’m a fan of Conor McGregor. I’ve said this a couple of times on Twitter. Great fighter, great personality, but you can’t go on interviews and say those things. The sport will never get mainstream if people carry on like that. Again, I’m using him as an example, and I’m going to get slated for it, but that’s not what the sport is about. You can have fun, you can show your personality, but you don’t have to eff and blind, and represent the sport badly.

By Jim Chadwick | Twitter

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