After suffering his third straight loss in May against Mark Munoz, Luke Barnatt was issued his release from the UFC. Since that time the 27-year-old British fighter has been in a state of reflection as to what his next move should be.
On Monday, Barnatt appeared on The MMA Hour and talked about his short term plan, which includes fighting for an Italian promotion.
"Obviously I left the UFC a while back, and I've been searching for the right company to bring me forward, and the right people to take me forward," said Barnatt, who was appearing on the show live from Spain. "I had a lot of offers coming in from loads of different places. It's quite a surprising company, I think people will be surprised that I decided to go with a starter. But there's a company out of Italy named Venator FC, the Venator Fighting Championship. They have had, I believe it's five shows now. But they're on the television on Fox, and they've been done like an Italian version of The Ultimate Fighter, where they've pitched Italians against each other. And they've done a 13-week series of this show, where they've built it up.
"And it's become very popular over there, and now they've built a show off that. So they had a reality program around mixed martial arts in Italy, and now they've brought a big show to Italy called Venator FC, which now they've recruited me to fight their middleweight finalist of that tournament, against a guy named Mattia Schiavolin, the best middleweight in Italy. The No. 1 ranked middleweight, and they've recruited me to come in and fight for the middleweight title on December 12."
That Venator event is slated to take place at the 105 Stadium in Riccione, Italy.
Barnatt (8-3) came off TUF 17, and he won his UFC debut against Collin Hart at the Finale in 2013. He followed that up with back-to-back finishes of Andrew Craig and Mats Nilsson before losing a split decision to Sean Strickland at UFC Fight Night 41 in Berlin, Germany. He then dropped a second split-decision against Roger Narvaez at UFC Fight Night 57, before losing a decision against Munoz in The Philippines.
"Bigslow" said that ultimately his goal is to end up back in the UFC within the next couple of years.
"It's literally just a two-fight deal [with Venator]," he said. "We got two fights and the next show is in December, and they're putting on a show in May, so there's a little bit of a gap in between. But within that contract I'm not exclusively signed to Venator. I'm signed to them, and they're my number one client, if you will, as a contractor. And then I can look for other organizations to work with them, and I'm looking for one more organization to fill in the void, to fill in the gap, because I'm looking to get as many as we can to get back into the UFC."
Asked what other promotion he's been talking to, Barnatt said he's in "deep discussions" with South Africa's largest MMA organization, the Extreme Fighting Championship (EFC), and that he would like to hold titles across continents.
"I'm literally looking for the fights I can get to take me back to the UFC."
Barnatt, who will no longer train at Alliance for his European fights, said he's been completely transparent with Venator and the EFC that his end goal is to end up back in the UFC. He said his desire to get back into the Octagon was why he didn't consider signing with the UFC's chief competition, Bellator.
"They're obviously competitors or whatever you want to call it, and I have a lot of close friends who fight there and a lot of people I respect who fight there, but it wasn't the right fit for me," he said. "And I feel like my main goal was to be back in the UFC. My journey was very, very quick to the UFC. I mean, I'd been fighting barely two years when I got on The Ultimate Fighter, and through that process was with the UFC and had six fights there. It was very, very fast. I've only been doing the sport six years, and I was fighting Mark Munoz, and I wanted that fight, and I'm glad I had that fight.
"But it's all been very quickly for me, and I felt like I handled it very well. I enjoyed my time with the UFC. I had some great fights and I learned a lot from it. I feel like once I get there again I'll be a much better suited athlete for the sport, and I'll do much better things."