‘I Just Wanted To Be Like Her’ – Iman Barlow Following In The Footsteps Of Her Muay Thai Champion Mom

Iman Barlow celebrates her victory at ONE: LIGHTS OUT

Iman “Pretty Killer” Barlow didn’t need to look far for inspiration at the start of her martial arts journey.

The British superstar – who returns against Ekaterina Vandaryeva in a strawweight clash at ONE Fight Night 8 on March 24 – was raised in a Muay Thai family, and her earliest memories include watching her mother, Maxine, prepare for fights in their gym. 

Seeing her parent train and compete meant Barlow never questioned her ability to take the same path, despite women still being a minority in “the art of eight limbs.”

Looking back on those early days, the 29-year-old says she was instantly motivated to follow in her mother’s footsteps:

“It’s definitely my mom [that influenced me]. My mom was a British Champion. She took me along to training, and I used to grow up just watching her training and fighting.

 “I know she’s proud of me, but she was definitely one of my inspirations. That was a great thing to have growing up.”

Barlow began her own training when she was just 2 years old and started competing not long after, taking part in junior bouts on the undercards of local shows.

And to this day, there’s one event she remembers more fondly than any other.

“Pretty Killer” shared the stage with her mother and watched in awe as her role model made a dramatic ring walk that’s been ingrained in her memory ever since. 

She said:

“My mom and I once fought on the same card when I was about 5. I just have great memories of being at this working men’s club, and before my mom came out for the fight there was a silhouette of her, like a shadow. 

“I just thought, ‘Wow, she is so cool.’ And then all the smoke came up and she made her entrance. I just wanted to be like her.”

‘She’s My Everything’

Iman Barlow always had a close mentor when it came to achieving success in Muay Thai, but her mother didn’t sit and lay things out.

Instead, Maxine simply walked the walk, and if her daughter wanted to emulate that success, she just needed to follow the lead.

“Pretty Killer” explained:

“I think she just led the way. I was brought up to see that you just get on with it. There are days when you can’t be bothered or you’re tired, but you just get on with it. I never really miss a session ever. And she gave me a more positive attitude and outlook on everything. 

“[She would say] ’If you want to do this, these are the sacrifices you must make. If you don’t want to do it, there’s no pressure, you don’t have to, but you can’t do both. You’ve got to either commit yourself or you don’t.’”

Now long retired from competition, Maxine is no longer leading from the front, but that doesn’t mean it’s the end of her role in her daughter’s career. 

There’s still a lot to do, and “Pretty Killer” doesn’t know where she’d be without her mom, who fulfills a variety of roles, from confidant to personal chef and more.

One thing’s for sure – the young striker with a 96-6 record owes a lot to her pioneering parent, and she will never take any of it for granted.

Barlow added:

“Now, [my mom is] the motivator. She’s the person that I can moan to, or she’s the kind of person I’ll go to talk to, about life or about training. She just listens. She’s my main cook. She looks after me. You can go to her if you need anything. She’s my everything.”

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