The flirtation between Josh Barnett and Dana White went exactly as you expected it would. Barnett will not be returning to the UFC but the reason why may or may not surprise you.
This is bad news for the UFC, especially coming off of a pay per view where their next scheduled championship fight completely fell apart. The heavyweight division is in trouble, big trouble. There are still a few stars left but it is a one man show with Cain Velasquez atop the mountain. A deep look into the division reveals a ton of parody and retreads. The division desperately needed someone with the star power of Barnett to come in and give it a boost. Throw in Barnett’s ability to talk and self-promote better than almost any other fighter in MMA and this is a big loss no matter how you cut it.
How Barnett would have done in the UFC is another discussion. But, the UFC would have had a former heavyweight champion who never lost his title returning to the company. I know Dana White said Barnett would have to wait on a title match but I don’t believe that. They could have easily moved him to the top with the justification being that he is a former champ that never lost and had a big money fight right off the bat.
Some will say that this news is not surprising at all. There are many that believe that Barnett never really wanted to come back to the UFC at all. Critics have accused Barnett of avoiding the UFC in order to take easier fights and pad his record. I think that is a bit of a stretch but at this point I am starting to believe those critics, depending upon what this undisclosed consideration turns out to be.
Barnett’s only real option at this point is Bellator. Unfortunately for him, Bjorn Rebney has publicly stated that they have no interest in him. A hybrid deal with TNA Wrestling and Spike TV makes perfect sense. Barnett as a dual fighter and pro wrestling in Bellator and TNA could actually move numbers for both companies. I wonder if Bellator’s interest would change with pressure from TNA Wrestling and Viacom. A transition as a personality and host on Spike TV also makes a ton of sense for Barnett.