Iman Barlow Announces Retirement Due to Not Getting Fights in ONE Championship – "I've Asked to Go My Own Way, so I Don't Have to Retire, but This Was Declined"

Apr 08, 2024
"Pretty Killer" before the fight. Photo: ONE Championship
The talented British Muay Thai fighter and kickboxer walks away from the sport.

Iman Barlow, 30, has announced her retirement from combat sports on social media. In the emotional 6-minute video, she reflected on her 26-year-long spanning career and her love for the sport, "from a young age, I sacrificed a lot in order to train, fight and become the best". 

"Pretty Killer" was one of the top female fighters in the sport, hailed by many as the next title challenger for ONE's Women's Strawweight Muay Thai champion, Smilla Sundell.

Iman Barlow against Ekaterina Vandaryeva.

As the reason for her retirement, Barlow states a problem all too common in ONE Championship – inactivity. Recently, many athletes have voiced their displeasure with ONE's infrequent fight offers, and have gone different ways once their contracts were up such as Davit Kiria, Tayfun Ozcan, Daniel Puertas, and Ilias Ennahachi

Not an option for fighters still locked into lengthy contracts, with no way out. 

"Fighting as often as I could, and taking every opportunity offered to me was important and made me the fighter I am. I would take fights under different rulesets, just to further my career and get my name out there, but most importantly keep me active. I once fought eight times in a year, and it was the best thing I ever did. Fighting regularly gave me a purpose and gave me a routine, and structure in my life, that I never knew I had. With not fighting as often, but still training full time, just waiting to get a call is so hard mentally. In the last four years, I've started endless fight camps on a maybe… but I just kept convincing myself it was the fight game and just to get on with it, and something would always come through… but in all honesty, it didn't really. How can I keep competing at such a high level with gaps in my career… I've asked to go my own way, so I don't have to retire, but this was declined. This is not what I'm about or not what I stand for, so it's time to take the stress away and retire the way I want to." 

Barlow made her ONE Championship debut in March 2022 and scored a dominant first-round stoppage over Daniela Lopez. She returned outside the promotion later that year but was only offered another fight with ONE in May 2023. Ekaterina Vandaryeva was her opponent this time, and once again, the British fighter proved to be victorious. 

Despite her fallout with the promotion, Barlow thanked her fans and hopes to have inspired the next generation of fighters. "Thank you to everyone who has ever supported me and helped me along my way towards achieving my dreams, wow what a ride. I've met some incredible people in the sport and they will be friends for life. I hope I have inspired some people along my journey and hoping to be associated with female Muay Thai forever."

ONE Women Strawweight champion Smilla Sundell addressed the voices about a potential fight between two, claiming Barlow has been offered to fight her ample times. "People are asking questions regarding Iman Barlow, Iman was offerd to fight me on September 2023, March 2024 and in April 2024. I signed all contracts for every fight but Iman turned them all down. I was ready to fight her every time, anywhere in the world."

Barlow was quick to shoot down Sundell, saying that she retired all the way in November 2023.


ONE Championship has been contacted to issue an official statement.