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Thursday, May 23, 2013

Opinion: Josh Barnett’s Return To The UFC

Former UFC Heavyweight Champion Josh Barnett

By Jesse Heitz

Recently, news broke that Josh “The Warmaster” Barnett, formerly known as “The Baby-Faced Assassin”, is due to make his long-awaited Octagon return, having signed a multi-fight deal with the UFC. The expected, yet unexpected move, should shakeup the UFC’s Heavyweight Division, which in the eyes of some, had been on the path to stagnation.

Just a few hours before this article was written, Barnett officially announced his signing with the UFC via his Twitter account, tweeting,

“The enemy has returned. I’ve signed w/the @UFC & no heavyweight is safe. They’re all due a lesson in violence from the Warmaster. #ufc #mma

UFC President Dana White had been angling to capture Barnett, one of the more elusive top heavyweights still on the market, for several months now. Yet, even now that the deal is in the books, so to speak, I’m still a little surprised that this deal was finalized. For years following Barnett’s departure from the UFC in 2002 following his disastrous positive PED test following his victory over Randy “The Natural” Couture, there was a bitter back-and-forth between Dana White and Josh Barnett, which for many cast considerable doubt on whether or not Barnett would ever fight under the UFC banner.

In a 2007 interview with MMAWeekly, Barnett had taken his own shot at the UFC boss, stating,

“Sitting back watching almost a decade’s worth of MMA being re-written by some guys, and that’s just a slap in the face of everybody who ever got into this in the beginning that didn’t even make a dime when we first started fighting, and didn’t even have promotions, and traveled the world to try to do everything we could to become mixed martial artists as we have today. It’s just completely disrespectful.”

“Not to mention, we’re not retired. We’re still friggen here, and training hard, and proving our mettle amongst the best in the world. Putting us on a back burner trying to act like we don’t exist, that’s either because they’re scared, they’re cowards and they don’t want us to ruin their sand castle, or they’re just spiteful.”

“Basically what it comes down to is if Dana wants to run his mouth, don’t say something that you’re not going to back up. You challenged all the boxing guys. You challenged Floyd Mayweather Jr. You make all these challenges, well, here, you said something; I’m putting a challenge to him. Step up. You claimed that they were all cowards and they didn’t have the balls to step up and laughed about it. Well, now I’m saying, look, you’re a coward. You’re not stepping up, and you made this statement, and I’m willing to prove you wrong.”

One of the more recent, and highly memorable barbs traded by these two men came from Dana White in September of 2010 following Chael Sonnen’s failed post-UFC 117 drug test. As reported by MMATorch, White stated,

“Everybody makes mistakes, it’s how you deal with those mistakes. You take a guy like Josh Barnett. This guy has tested positive three times, denies every time that he’s taken steroids. He comes out with an interview last week, basically saying ‘I don’t care about anyone else. The only person I care about is myself. I got some fans out there, thanks for following me or whatever but I’m not fighting for you, I’m fighting for me.’

“This is a guy who single handedly put a company out of business for doing what he did and has zero remorse for it. ‘I don’t care that you bought tickets for that fight and you were planning on going. I don’t care that Fedor flew all the way in from Russia to fight me, and trained and spent his own money to do this. I don’t care that this company Affliction believed in me and was allowing me to make a living and I put them out of business. All I care about is me.’ Those are the kind of guys that I have zero tolerance for, and that’s why he’s not in the UFC and never will be.”

Right now, it looks as if money, and not time, have healed old wounds. I suppose that this just proves that you can’t believe everything that you hear, that the dollar reigns supreme. To an extent, I enjoyed the banter, it made for some great headlines. However, as a fight fan, I found such bickering to be a tragedy of sorts. At a time when the UFC’s Heavyweight Division was at its weakest, a top talent like Barnett would have been incredible.

Barnett is now 35, and has been a professional fighter for 16 years, so one is left to wonder how many great fights he has left in the tank. His lopsided loss to Daniel Cormier a year ago tends to support the case that he’s on the downswing. In any event, I’m sure he’ll notch his belt with a few more wins, but I have my doubts that he’ll be able to overcome the new crop of young talent that dominates the division. What a shame that personal squabbling on both sides delayed his return to the UFC.

posted by FCF Staff @ 10:16 am
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