by Al Yu – MMAWeekly.com
2006 was a very busy year for Josh Barnett. The former UFC Heavyweight Champion fought seven times, facing stiff competition and producing two of the most memorable fights in Pride history against Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira.
The “Babyface Assassin” recently spoke with MMAWeekly about his most recent fight and what to expect in 2007.
Seven fights in one year is a lot for any fighter. “If it wasn’t for the Grand Prix, I might not have been that active. I have no intentions of next year being so physically demanding,” explained Josh, who is currently the #4 Heavyweight in the MMAWeekly Rankings. “I’d like to take at least 4 to 6 months off; sort of take care of some injuries and then build into peak performance that I want to be at. I don’t intend on losing any fights this year.”
In a rematch of arguably the best fight of 2006, Barnett lost a unanimous decision to former Pride Heavyweight Champion Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. “He stood up more and on the ground he wasn’t going to try and wrestle with me this time; which is sort of strange because that’s his bread and butter,” said the runner-up of the Pride Open Weight Grand Prix. “He kept coming forward and I got tired, that was the biggest difference altogether.”
So when can fans expect an end to potentially one of the greatest trilogies in MMA history? “We’re going to see it this year but I don’t know when exactly,” stated Barnett. “I plan on finishing this one out this year for sure.”
“I was fine just fighting him on the feet. You can’t do much when you’re tired; only throwing one or two punches at a time,” added the former pro wrestler. “Where ever the fight ends up, it ends up. I would like to submit him and that might be something I try for next time. I’m not the kind of guy that feels like I have to go to one particular area to win the fight. Not being so physically battered and wore out will make the biggest difference for me.”
Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic recently left Pride to sign with the UFC. Barnett is all too familiar with the Pride Open Weight Grand Prix Champion, having fought the Croatian fighter three times. “I haven’t really spoken to him…the only thing that I would say is ‘Hey, you getting good money for it? I hope so, way to go.’ I don’t fault him in the least. If he got the right kind of deal, it’s good on his behalf.”
Mirko’s signing comes at a good time for the largest MMA organization in the U.S. as the UFC looks to bolster its barren heavyweight division. The former K-1 kickboxer is expected to make a major impact and has already been touted as the future heavyweight champion by many fans. So how long will it take the former Pride star to take over the division? “Matter of months,” commented Barnett. “It’s only a puncher’s chance for most of these guys; they don’t have the ability to hang with a guy like Mirko.”
A fight that fans have been eagerly waiting to see is a match-up between Barnett and current Pride Heavyweight Champion Fedor Emelianenko. “I do think if it’s going to happen, this year would be the one for it,” pondered the former UFC champion. “At this point, neither one of us, personally, have any interest in fighting each other because of who we are. As competitors and athletes, it’s going to happen eventually. I would expect a fight between the two of us to be better than any of the Minotauro/Barnett fights.”
“If you asked anybody that fought in Japan, they’re going to say that is the number one place for fighters in general. I got a lot of fans in the U.S. and I got a lot of fans all around the world. I don’t think a fighter can be so choosy. As a fighter and one of the talents for a company, you have to go where the fights are at. As long as there is a fight ring, I’ll be there beating somebody up.”