Josh Barnett is a man of many talents.
The former UFC heavyweight champion is also a part time professional wrestler, huge fan of heavy metal music, and avid comic book aficionado. Add to that he’s also one of the best fighters in the sport, and he intends on proving that once again when he faces Sergei Kharitonov in the semifinals of the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix this weekend in Cincinnati, OH.
Before stepping foot into the cage on Saturday, Barnett was originally scheduled to take a pro wrestling match in Japan, but had to put that on hold for now.
Under the terms of his contract, Barnett can participate in professional wrestling as well as his commitment to Strikeforce, but according to the fighter, it just didn’t work out this time.
“While I have the ability to go to professional wrestling, I still have to get some permission,” Barnett revealed when speaking to MMAWeekly Radio. “It wasn’t granted for this match. I make quite a bit of money over in Japan doing my pro wrestling, I’m over there quite a few times per year. I like to use the wrestling to go over there and interact with my Japanese fans, to stay sharp, and to stay relevant over the land of the rising sun.”
Like other fighters including Sergei Kharitonov who does K-1 as well, Barnett likes having the ability to do more than just compete in MMA. He does admit however for as much as he loves professional wrestling, if the right offer comes along he’d be happy to stay on as a full time fighter.
“It all comes down to whose got the right contract, whose got the right set up so that we can work together on something. Any time you put yourself in a position where you have to have one thing or the other, you’re going to have to give up quite a bit to get that. I want to fight, I want to fight the best that I can, but I wouldn’t do so at the risk of what I feel would be making a really bad judgment in terms of my career,” said Barnett.
“UFC would be a great place to fight, Strikeforce is obviously a great place to fight as well. As long as there’s a ring and there’s opponents, I’ll be out there to go kick their heads off.”
Fighting is what Barnett has been focused on lately, and his main concern has been facing Kharitonov this weekend.
A former Pride standout, Kharitonov has kept busy over the years in various promotions and even turned to K-1 to give kickboxing a try. In the first round of the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix, Kharitonov made short work of former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski.
The win woke up a lot of naysayers who didn’t believe that Kharitonov was the same fighter who sat in the top ten of the heavyweight division just a few short years ago. Barnett wants everyone to believe in Kharitonov actually, because it will make a win over him that much sweeter.
“Everybody saw the last fight and he made a huge impression. I get all the questions, people are concerned, and that’s great. I want people to feel involved and I want them to cast doubt, makes it more interesting,” said Barnett. “I feel so utterly confident in my mind.”
The match-up between Barnett and Kharitonov seems to pit striker against grappler in a world where it’s never as simple as that. Barnett is confident however that his hands can keep him out of danger far longer than Kharitonov’s skills can keep him safe on the ground.
“I’m sure testing the ground game is not anything he wants to do,” Barnett stated. “He just wants to keep it on the feet, keep it striking and that’s fine. Cause we are going to get into some fisticuffs before I put him on his back, but once he’s down there I know he does have some ability in the submission area, but I expect I should have not a whole ton of trouble coming out on top.”
If Barnett is successful in his fight against Sergei Kharitonov, he would move onto the finals of the Grand Prix and face the winner on the other side of the bracket. That fight pits Antonio ‘Bigfoot’ Silva against late replacement Daniel Cormier.
So who does Barnett think he’ll face in the finals should he make it?
“I have a feeling I’m going to face (Daniel) Cormier in the finals,” Barnett said. “I just think his wrestling and his comfort in the ring are at a point where he can take Bigfoot out of his game, and beat him on a decision.”
Saturday night will prove if Barnett can go 2 for 2 with predictions by winning his own fight, and picking Cormier as the fighter he will face in the finals in 2012.