Josh Barnett will be a huge asset to the UFC


Josh Barnett was on the MMA Hour last week and was asked about his future. He hasn’t fought in almost a year and has been quiet about his fighting career as of late. Ariel Helwani asked him about his future and what  his future plans were?

“I’ve been a top 10 fighter longer than anybody active in mixed martial arts at this time,” he said. “And there’s a real good reason for that. To be in the UFC would mean to go back to where I already won the belt, to go back to where I was a champion at 24 years old, and try to cement my legacy as an MMA fighter. I don’t really feel I can create that legacy and finish on a high point unless I’m there.”

All MMA fans should be excited after reading that. If you watched or listened to the full interview, you had to notice Barnett seemed very positive. Everyone that knows who Barnett is knows how charismatic and intellectual he is. He’ll give you a straight answer, along with being able to make you laugh at any moment.

You may not be a Barnett fan, but how can anyone say that the UFC wouldn’t benefit from bringing Barnett back? The heavyweight division has a plethora of great fighters and has produced some big knockouts so far year. The one knock on the heavyweight division is that it doesn’t have a charismatic fighter that can truly promote a fight. That has now changed and Barnett is back in the UFC.

USA TODAY Sports/ 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 huge news and it gives the heavyweight division a much someone that can promote any fight. They don’t have a Chael Sonnen or Nick Diaz in the division that can trash talk or spark up interest. Roy Nelson and Mark Hunt may be fan favorites, but they aren’t known for delivering incredible speeches or trash talk. I’m aware of some fans not caring about trash talk or promos. Still it’s important to market yourself as a fighter and Barnett has made a career of doing that.

It’s highly unlikely to see him compete for the heavyweight championship at 35 years old. Still he is someone that can be in a co-main event against someone like Frank Mir or Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. It would be a dream matchup for fans whether it’s a battle with Mir or the rubber match with Nogueira.  This is what he had to say about a possible fight with Mir.

“With Frank, it’s just the one fight everyone brings to me,” he said. “I think part of that stems from us being American submission guys, and being big dudes, and having the fight between [Antonio Rodrigo] Nogueira and Mir, me and Nogueira, there’s some commonality between opponents. I can understand why fans look at it in that way. And honestly, yeah, Frank’s been around a long time. I’d have absolutely no issue fighting him in any way, shape, or form. I think it would be something that would get people excited, but I’ll be honest. If I’m just being humble, I think I get people excited anyway.”

Similar to Barnett, both Nogueira and Mir are unlikely to get another title fight in their career. I know the heavyweight division is constantly changing and it seems like if you win two or three fights, you are in title contention. It’s an unpredictable division, so that’s why I say it’s unlikely that any of the three fighters can earn a title shot rather than never again.

Barnett is a prolific fighter that had a four year undefeated streak at one point. It may have been in different promotions, but finishing seven out of eight fights is a very impressive feat from 2008 to 2011. His bad relationship with Dana White has hurt his stock a bit over the years, but now he has the chance to finish his career where a fighter of his caliber should end at.

For the newer fans that have never seen Barnett fight, you have to look him up. He’s been one of the most entertaining fighters in the world  and isn’t your typical heavyweight. Unlike most heavyweights, he’s very well rounded and has proven he can finish a fight from a punch or a submission. He prides himself on making sure every area of his game is sound and doesn’t rely on one area to dominate his opponent. He is always prepared to fight any style, which is why he’s been so successful in his career.

Other than Eddie Alvarez, there wasn’t a fighter out there that fans wanted to see more in the UFC. With the UFC making so many cards on Fox 1 for the fall, he can easily be put as a co-main event or even a main event. His last fight with Daniel Cormier was arguably one of the most best main events on an MMA card last year. He may have been soundly defeated, but he fared far better than Antonio Silva and Frank Mir when facing Cormier.

If you put him in a fight with Mir for free on television, I’m sure it’ll get many fans excited. I’m expecting Mir to be his first opponent because many heavyweights are booked up and Dana White will understand how much the fans want to see that fight. Those two are arguably the best submission specialists in the heavyweight division, along with Nogueira and Fabricio Werdum.

The loser of Nogueira versus Werdum could also be a possible opponent for Barnett. There are plenty of possibilities for him and I’m sure something will happen by  the fall or early winter of 2013. Barnett isn’t getting any younger and hasn’t fought since last January.  He may have asked for too much money from February, which is why contract talks broke down between with the UFC.

Now he’s officially apart of the company and will now spark even more buzz in the heavyweight division that has never looked so good. If you look back, it seemed like Strikeforce had a better heavyweight division than the UFC around 2010-2011. They had fighters like Barnett, Werdum, Cormier, Silva, Alistair Overeem and the legend Fedor Emelianenko. That is a scary list of fighters, which is why the Strikeforce Grand Prix tournament gained so much interest when it was first announced

Other than Emelianenko, all of those mentioned fighters are in the top ten of the heavyweight division. The UFC has benefited from adding those heavyweights in and now will benefit even more with the new addition. The relationship between Barnett and White has been patched up for months now. The deal was bound to happen and it finally did.

After seeing fights this year become heated like Overeem versus Silva and Cormier versus Mir, the heavyweight division could finally start having story-lines again. It seems to be lacking ever since Brock Lesnar retired. Whenever it seems like there is a legitimate beef between two fighters, interest will immediately grow. With Barnett back in the fold, you’ll have another heavyweight that isn’t afraid to speak his mind and can back it up with the best of them. Hopefully sometime in the next few months, we’ll see Josh Barnett be booked for a fight whether it’s against someone like Mir or Nogueira or even Roy Nelson, who was mentioned in the interview on the MMA Hour as a possible opponent.

Don’t let age fool you, this is a massive addition to the UFC. There is never a dull moment when he is a part of something, whether it’s a fight or interview or analyst booth. This has been long overdue and everyone should be excited for this. Welcome back Josh Barnett, you’ve been missed.

Twitter: @Allen_Strk

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