by Al Yu – MMAWeekly.com
After the purchase of Pride Fighting Championships, the futures of many fighters were met with a bit of uncertainty. The postponement of the Pride Lightweight Grand Prix indicated that Zuffa’s acquisition of Pride had not been a smooth transition. Until recently, one fighter who shared the dubiety with others was Pride Open Weight Grand Prix runner-up Josh Barnett.
“My contract with DSE…we agreed on termination and I’m just moving on,” said Barnett, the #4 heavyweight in the MMAWeekly World MMA Rankings.
Commonly considered one of the top five heavyweight fighters in the world, the “Babyface Assassin” is now a sought after free agent. So who will he sign with? “The offers are really going to dictate that. It also depends on who I’m fighting and where they want me to fight. Honestly, I’m ready to fight on short notice if I have to. I prefer not to but if the right deal was there then put me in the ring,” stated Barnett.
“I want to fight in a place that wants me to be there and wants to work with me; [a place that] understands what it is that I bring to the table,” added the pro wrestler. “I want to be paid comparable to the fighters that are my caliber. I’m going to give much and I want to receive as well.”
For Josh Barnett, there are many potential employers to choose from. One organization that fans wouldn’t mind seeing Josh sign with is the UFC. A possible acquisition of Barnett by the MMA juggernaut would continue the recent trend of former Pride fighters transitioning into the octagon.
“Conversation-wise, it has been very few. They [UFC] understand why I did not sign over the contract from DSE,” revealed the Pride and UFC veteran. “I let them know exactly why. We spoke a couple times and they expressed interest. I told them that I don’t have problems with the UFC and that’s been the extent of it.”
With former Pride heavyweights Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Heath Herring having jumped ship, the once barren UFC heavyweight division is now bolstering with new talent. “That’s the biggest pool at this moment but the best guy is not there and that would be Fedor,” commented Josh. “All those guys, the best they can do is [be] #2 in my opinion. I’m looking to fight with Fedor if possible. There’s enough guys floating around out there right now that could certainly make a good fight for me. I’ve fought many of the people there already and I certainly wouldn’t mind fighting Nogueira again or Randy. It would be a decent place for me to be. I have absolutely no problem with the cage. In fact, elbows are one of my best weapons.”
Having acquired the services of Matt Lindland and Fedor Emelianenko, Bodog has shown that they’re an organization serious about obtaining some of the best fighters in the world. “I’ve known those guys [Bodog] for a long time, probably since I was nineteen years old. We have kept in touch not just through business but personal as well so I was eager to help them out when they approached me at first. I’ve got two fighters coming up on their next season that they’re going to be filming shortly here in August. I’ve certainly got some interest in Bodog but at this point they don’t have a front running at getting my services over anybody else,” clarified Barnett.
Coming from a professional wrestling background, Barnett is very familiar with the aspects of showmanship and presence. Many fans have enjoyed his time behind the commentary table. Would Barnett give up his fighting career to pursue a job as a commentator?
“I could but I must confess; I’m still a fighter right now,” replied Barnett. “Doing things like commentary…I enjoy it a lot. I want to fight. For me, the most important thing is to spend most of my time fighting. Not to say that I wouldn’t do the occasional commentary here and there like I did for Pride but I think my commentary days are well ahead of me still.”
Having fought Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic, widely considered two of the best heavyweight fighters in the world, only one man has eluded a match with the “Babyface Assassin”; that man would be Fedor Emelianenko. Like Barnett, Fedor is also a free agent and has been publicly pursued by the UFC. The former King of Pancrase expressed his interest in facing Fedor on many occasions. Would Josh favor signing with the organization that ultimately acquires Emelianenko?
“That would make a big difference in my deciding factor,” revealed the former UFC Heavyweight Champion. “Like I said, it is really important that I’m in a place that wants me there. I don’t want to be in a bad environment. I want to be in an organization that takes care of their fighters and appreciates the work that we put out. I’m not holding anyone in any regard over the other. They will make the decision for me by the type of offers they make. It’s pretty simple in my opinion. I love fighting in Japan and I think it would kind of be waste if an organization didn’t take advantage of the fact that I have popularity; all the things I have done in Japan for the past four years now. That’s just money making opportunities everywhere you look. There’s not many fighters that can fight in the U.S. and outside of the U.S. and still be a draw.”
The last time Josh Barnett fought was at the end of 2006. As he decides on his future, all fans can do is wait patiently.
“I’d like to fight before the end of fall. I’m not going a whole year without a fight. I couldn’t even imagine how crappy that would be. I want to get out there and fight. I did a lot last year and my fans have waited patiently for six months now. I’m sure they’re chomping at the bit just as much as I am. I don’t want to let them down.”