by Matt Hill – MMAWeekly.com
“It’s nice to go out there and put a toe-hold on somebody in front of everybody,” said Josh Barnett about his recent Pride 32 victory over Pawel Nastula.
“It’s like I said going into this…he’s an Olympic gold medalist, and if you’re an Olympic gold medalist – I’m sure that even ping-pong gold medalists are bad-ass athletes all in their own right – so, you just can’t get to that level without being an exceptional athlete, so it doesn’t really surprise me…although I did knee him square in the mouth and cracked his nose pretty good with it and he didn’t fall, so he can take a shot too,” Barnett said of Nastula.
At only 28 years-of-age, Barnett has faced an assortment of upper-echelon heavyweight fighters, and has wins over a number of them. These fighters include Mark Hunt, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, and Aleksander Emelianenko, among others.
Barnett, who is currently the #3 Heavyweight in the MMAWeekly Rankings, does anticipate one fight that he has yet to secure. Josh would like to duke it out with current Pride Heavyweight Champ Fedor Emelianenko, the man who many consider to be the best overall fighter in the world.
During the post-fight press conference after Pride 32 ‘The Real Deal,’ Fedor made it known that he wanted his next opponent to be “George Barnett.” After a few chuckles from the crowd, Josh, who said of “George” – “We’re doing some research on that” – was glad to be name-dropped by the champ.
Josh said, “Cool. I’m glad that he nominated me. Honestly, I think he understands the game out there. There’s not really all that many people left for him to fight, but I’m sure he’s understood for at least some time now that fighting me would be a really big match up for him.”
It does seem that Josh’s style may be hardest for Fedor to contend with. Barnett is a good wrestler, good striker and has excellent submissions on the ground…just ask Pawel Nastula, Mark Hunt, Semmy Schilt and Dan Severn…all men submitted by ‘The Babyface Assassin.’
So the question now is, if Emelianenko wants the fight, and Barnett is up for the challenge, then when can we expect to see this highly anticipated bout?
“For me, basically what it all comes down to is how training goes…and this year has been, uh…something else so far, but if I feel good, I’ll do it,” said Barnett.
There is some speculation within the MMA community that there could be a Barnett/Emelianenko match up as early as the end of the year, but there is no official word from Pride, or from either fighters’ camp on the possible fight.
Many people consider Fedor, Pride’s current and undefeated heavyweight champ; to be an unbeatable fighter…Barnett disagrees.
“There isn’t anybody that you could find on this planet that I don’t feel I’m gonna beat,” Barnett said.
Josh continued, “…There are weaknesses in all of our games. He’s been on a good streak, and he’s been having a good rash of luck as far as in exerting his will against his opponents and making them fight into his fight…but, of course, there’s weakness there, and there’s openings and opportunities for a fighter to take advantage.”
The third man in the Pride heavyweight mix is Mirko Filipovic, the winner of the most recent Pride OWGP. Barnett said of Filipovic, “He is one of the top guys in the world, and getting a win over him, or just fighting him in general is a big deal, so, I’m not personally looking for him specifically, but at the same time, if I won the heavyweight title, I would sort of feel obligated at least to give him a shot since he did just win the Open Weight Grand Prix.”
Pride brought its ring to America for the first time in the company’s history at Pride 32. It had been some time since Barnett had been able to compete in America, and Josh was glad to have the opportunity to fight on his native soil once again.
“It was cool. It was nice to have my family and my friends, and some of my sponsors and [the] audience come and take a look at me, and see me do what I do live,” Barnett said.
The one victory that Barnett really wants to solidify is his split decision win over Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. Barnett and Nogueira fought a relatively even fight in the second round of the OWGP, with Barnett getting the nod for the win. For a competitor like Barnett, though, the win wasn’t as indubitable as he would have liked.
Josh said, “I’d like to put that guy out for good…Well, not for good exactly – I’m not trying to end the guy’s career or nothin’ – but, I’d like to take him out and put a real definitive win over him by submission or by knockout and show him – while he may not believe that I’m the better fighter, or at least that I was the better fighter that night – but he will have no choice than to know it as fact if I take him out.”
Well for now, fans can only ‘wait in the wings’ to see what Pride can put together for its New Year’s show, but it sounds like if Barnett is healthy and Fedor is willing, there will definitely be one fight that night that fans can look forward to.