Josh Barnett is coming home. The seventh Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight champion has signed a multi-fight deal to return to the octagon for the first time in over eleven years.
[adinserter name=”366 left”]I may be wrong but I can’t remember another UFC star or former champion that had such a large gap between runs as Barnett’s eleven years. MMAJunkie.com broke the news earlier this week that after months of negotiating, Barnett and the UFC finally agreed on a deal.
“USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com) today confirmed with promotion officials that former UFC heavyweight champion Barnett has signed a new multi-fight deal with the promotion and is expected to make his return to the octagon later this year. An official announcement is expected soon.”
This is big news to a heavyweight division that has been up and down over the last several years in regards to star power. The signing immediately puts Barnett into the championship mix if you the company wants to play up the storyline that Barnett never lost the belt. The only problem with that tale is that the reason Barnett was stripped of the title was a positive PED test.
I think that the biggest asset Barnett brings to the promotion is his ability to talk. Some would argue that Barnett is the best talker in all of Mixed Martial-Arts. Barnett is a longtime professional wrestling fan and has brought some of those elements into MMA with his promos and style. The one thing you can say about Barnett is that he gets it. You can probably list the good talkers in the UFC on one hand, which is kind of sad if you think about the number of fighters on the roster. Don’t be surprised if Barnett immediately becomes one of the biggest draws in the company.
Now whether Barnett can back any of his verbal attacks up in the octagon is another story. Barnett is 9-1 in his last ten fights. The knock on this record is the quality of competition. There is nobody on that list of nine wins who would impress anyone. I’d say his most impressive wins came in seven years ago when he put together back to back wins over Mark Hunt and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. Barnett’s last two fights against quality competition were a Nogueira rematch and Daniel Cormier which were both losses. To his credit he wasn’t finished in any of those two fights.
What do you do with Barnett? Dana White said a few weeks ago that his original plan for Barnett was a fight with Junior Dos Santos. JDS is fighting Mark Hunt at UFC 161 and all indications are that he would get a title shot with a win. I would imagine a loss would set him up for a fight with Overeem. I suppose you can match him up with Mark Hunt if Hunt were to lose. Alistair Overeem is rumored to have a fight agreement in place with Travis Browne but I haven’t heard anything official so I guess you can say he is in the mix. Frank Mir and Antonio Silva (if he were to lose to Cain) are also viable options. Unfortunately nothing really jumps out at me as anything I’d get excited about other than a fight with Velasquez.
Barnett and Dana White have had their issues over the years. However, White has had an eye on Barnett for awhile. When Barnett was signed to fight Fedor I remember White saying he’d consider bringing Barnett back if he won. The fight fell through and Barnett wound up in Strikeforce.
[adinserter name=”366 right”]The biggest surprise to me is that Viacom/Spike showed no interest in signing Barnett. Barnett would have been a perfect signing for a TNA Wrestling/Bellator crossover, the same way King Mo was intended to be used. Barnett is a pro wrestler and has even headlined shows in Japan. The marriage seemed like a natural yet from all accounts Bellator and Spike showed no interest.
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