Sixteen Years Later: Josh Barnett Explains His Staying Power as Top Fighter

September 1, 2013
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Josh Barnett UFC 164 Post_3068There has long been discussion about fighters that should be fighting in the UFC, but, for one reason or another, weren’t.

Over the years that list has dwindled, as the purchase of MMA promotions Strikeforce and Pride FC (among others) by the UFC brought many of those fighters into the fold.

Fighters like Shogun Rua, Wanderlei Silva, Rampage Jackson, and the Nogueira brothers all made their way from Japan to the inside of the world famous Octagon.

However, over the past decade, one fighter had escaped the promotion.

Seeing as he was once the UFC’s youngest heavyweight champion, fans have been perplexed as to why heavyweight catch-wrestler Josh Barnett never returned to his fighting home after defeating UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture at UFC 36 in 2002.

Barnett tested positive for steroids after winning the UFC gold over a decade ago and was subsequently stripped of the title.

Obviously that didn’t help his stock in the eyes of the UFC brass at the time.

Fast forward almost eleven years and 20-some fights – and after the UFC purchased many of the major MMA promotion across the globe – the two parties eventually struck a deal.

Barnett was brought back to the cage to face fellow former UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir in the co-main event of Saturday’s UFC 164 in Milwaukee.

No longer “The Baby Faced Assassin,” “The Warmaster,” made his UFC return in highlight reel fashion when he destroyed the former champ with a bevy of brutal knee strikes that left Mir in a heap just minutes into the opening round.

At the UFC 164 post-fight press conference, Barnett spoke about his longevity and elation at the prospect of finally returning to his fighting home after years toiling in rival promotions across the globe.

“It’s cool, man. It’s great,” said the 35-year-old veteran. “I love to fight, period.  You could put us out in the parking lot like we used to do and go at it and I’d still be happy to get out there and try to bash somebody’s brains in.”

He continued, “The non-Viking Neanderthal side of me – even though those are two different things – enjoys the fact I started with the company right before it turned over.

“I go from last fight at UFC 36 in 2002 all the way to 2013 and UFC 187,000,” he said with a smile.

“So it’s been a long journey, but I think in the grand scheme of it all, that the people who believed in me and trained me from the get-go, put the right time and effort into me.  The staying power is here. There is no other fighter, really – 16 years in this game – and still going out there in the Top 10 consistently. I’m glad to be a part of it. I’m also glad to start where I did, in the dark ages, and then end up here in this fantastic turnaround that the UFC is now.”

Barnett is not only one of the longest tenured heavyweights in the sport; he’s also one of its most well traveled and trained. From catch wrestling to old school jiu-jitsu, kickboxing, boxing, and even some pro wrestling, Barnett has learned from the best and soaked up every own of each training session.

It’s something the grizzled vet credits to his now legendary staying power as an MMA commodity.

“Essentially, my first (coach), Bill Robinson, said, ‘You need to learn how to learn,’” recalled The Warmaster.

“Just to go out there and be shown techniques and go through the motions doesn’t mean you’re getting the full picture.  And I think through the great trainers I’ve had like Matt Hume and Haru Shimanishi, Bill Robinson, Karl Gotch and Erik Paulson, and the list goes on, of people working with me over the years, I’ve taken in as much as they could give me and then some.  But I’ve also trained my mind to be ready to understand the big picture of all the techniques I’m seeing, and how they apply to different situations.

“I’m still a guy fighting in the Top 10, but I’ve also trained world champions.  I’ve already coached world champions and become a world champion myself and you don’t do that unless you have a full understanding of the game. I know that is why I’m here 16 years and who knows how much longer I’ll be at it. I still feel great.”

From America to Japan and back. From the “Baby Faced Assassin” to “The Warmaster” and all stops between, the former champion is back where his fighting career started, and there is little sign of him slowing down.

(Follow @RyanMcKinnell on Twitter)

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  • Manuel Lopez

    Glad to see Barnett still at the top of his game after all these years. Great mic skills too. Barnett vs Bigfoot anyone? Or Werdum?

    • TheCerealKiller

      I won’t be surprised if he fails his post fight drug test.

      • Flock of Burgers

        Yeah but nobody cares what you think. Oh well.

        • L

          Barnett has learned a lot from his involvement with pro wrestling. He is a much better spokesperson for MMA than Chael Sonnen is (or should I say Stone Cold Chael Sonnen).

          • Flock of Burgers

            Totally, bro, I agree with you. I’ve been watching Barnett since he made his UFC debut and have been a fan ever since.

          • Werdoomb

            I disagree.

            The current Chael Sonnen is probably the best heel character ever to grace the octagon.

            You could hate him. It’s okay. But he is the Stone Cold of the UFC.

            And no, Chael is nothing like Tito Ortiz or Frank Mir. Those two suck. They can’t win big fights. But Chael is different. He gave Silva the biggest run for the money, man handled Brian Stan, and beat Shogun Rua at 205.

            Barnett doesn’t have it to be a good heel, although he could be an entertaining guy. And no, Roy Nelson is not cool. He sucks.

          • Flock of Burgers

            You disagree with yourself? Sure.

    • Flock of Burgers

      Werdum. Barnett would walk through Big Foot.

  • TheCerealKiller

    Sure, all the steroids have nothing to with it. Popped three times, anyone? He is a full fledged cheater and is probably still cycling around his fights. Enjoy your win over Frank, because everybody else in the top 10 win not named Bigfoot will smash you.

    • #1mmafan.

      Sounds like somebody’s butthurt!!! 🙂

      • TheCerealKiller

        I actually have zero love for Mir. He hasn’t’ beaten anyone except retirees in years.

    • claudale

      Mir probably juices too, look at his ability to pack on muscle when he wants to put on size. Barnett looked flabbier than ever; he probably was clean for this one

      • peedubya

        I would be very disappointed for Barnett if he was juicing and still looked like crap. If you are going to juice, at least go full overoid.

      • Werdoomb


        Which planet are you from? Frank Mir is one of the UFC fighters that are on TRT. The others are Chael Sonnen, Dan Henderson, Vitor Belfort and Forrest Griffin.

    • Werdoomb

      Mind you, Mir is on TRT.

      Also, I doubt Roy Nelson could beat Barnett.

  • Giovanni

    Frank Mir is so stupid! He knows he never stands a chance on the clinch. He always gets pummeled and then finished when he’s in the clinch; yet he made the same dumb ass mistake again! Lesnar got him in a clinch and was winning before taking him down, Carwin finished him in the clinch, Nogueira was finishing him in the clinch before Mir got lucky and took it to the ground and submitted him, Dos Santos pummeled him in the clinch AND NOW Barnett took him to the clinch and pummeled him!

    When is Mir going to get it! As soon as Barnett put him in the clinch you could see Mir’s body language as if he was saying, “Oh boy, no, the clinch, no please!” And then is like he shuts down and doesn’t really do much to get out of it or defend himself. Poor guy, he’s good but that’s all he’s going to be in the UFC because he will never make it to greatness! Sad but true!

    • Werdoomb

      I doubt its Frank Mir’s stupidity that cost him the fight. Frank Mir wanted desperately to avoid the clinch and you could tell by the way he was trying to reverse Barnett.

      Frank simply can’t handle big wrestlers. He does well against washed ups and nobodies like Cro Cop, Kongo, and Nelson. But against someone that can bully him around, he stands no chance.

      Didn’t Frank Mir talk smack on Reem, calling him a well-muscled 205er? Well, that fight now makes sense.

  • dgs

    Very happy Barnett is back with the UFC, but somehow I don’t see him beating the best of his division, e.g., Dos Santos, Velasquez, and Cormier (who beat him in a one-side fashion last year).

    • Alex Adams

      Dos Santos and Velasquez are in a league of their own. Barnett beat Mir ok but i still believe the Dos Sabtos fight wasd even more impressive. One hand sprawl, mouvement everything seem so easy for Dos Santos. Barnett and almost no other HW can’t stand theiur ground vs the Big 2 in the division. Barnett should face Big Roy would be a great way to know where he stand in the division

      • Raymond Gonzalez

        Nelson vs. Barnett would be friggin’ awesome. GREAT idea, bro.

  • safari_punch

    What I don’t get is Josh’s attraction to the Brett Rogers look. Why Josh? WHY??

  • Denny Swain

    He beat mir easily, whereas cormier couldn’t even hurt or take mir down.rematch?

    • Werdoomb

      not now.

      There are more intriguing fights in the UFC.

      I say bring Sergei to the UFC and match him up against Stipe or Browne. That would be sick.

      Reem vs Mir, loser leaves town.

      Barnett can fight anyone in the top 10.

  • Gary Fredericks

    Frank Mir had been great for many years and was a remarkable comeback story after his accident. Currently, the wave he’d been riding after the Lesnar ankle lock has hit shore already and he cannot hide from his record. I think Mir is done and has been for a long time. When you’re in your 30’s and pumping the TRT therapy, you have lost your battle with father time. Hang up the gloves.