Help My MMA Career Has Fallen and I Can't Get Up: The Travails of Josh Barnett and Tim Sylvia

Photo by Scott Peterson via MMA Weekly

Michael David Smith sums up the latest on Josh Barnett:

After reports surfaced that Barnett had agreed to fight for Dream but that two potential opponents -- Tim Sylvia and Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva -- had turned down the chance to fight him,Barnett acknowledged the rumor on Twitter. He added that he doesn't know who his next opponent will be, but said, "I do want to fight." 

...

Plenty of big names -- including Alistair Overeem, Andrei Arlovski and even Fedor Emelianenko -- have been mentioned as possible opponents for Barnett in Japan, but I'd urge fans of Japanese MMA not to get their hopes up for that kind of fight. More likely Barnett will take on someone he should beat easily, and fans who want to see Barnett taking on relevant opponents will have to wait.

And MDS's MMA Fighting teammate Mike Chiappetta reports that World's Strongest Man Mariusz Pudzianowski has confirmed that he'll be making his second pro MMA appearance in the Poland-based KSW promotion on May 7. What does this have to do with Tim Sylvia?

Over the weekend, The Boston Herald reported that Pudzianowski-Sylvia would headline an April 23 show in Worcester, Mass., but that seems unlikely with Pudzianowski contractually bound to a show in Poland just two weeks later.   

Both Barnett and Sylvia remain top flight heavyweights. The USAT/SBN Consensus MMA Rankings have them ranked at #12 and #24 respectively. Both are likely ranked beneath their abilities -- Barnett is being punished for failing his third drug test last year and Sylvia is coming off a loss in a freakshow fight to 50-something 48-year-old  boxer Ray Mercer.

Barnett's problems finding a credible opponent in DREAM are really telling. He's very likely to beat both Sylvia and Antonio Silva, and I'd give him an excellent chance of beating Alistair Overeem too. But his name is so tarnished that there's no upside to taking a loss to him and a win over Barnett doesn't have 1/4 the value it  had this time last year.

DREAM is starved for top-notch heavyweights so I expect to see Barnett in a squash match with a chump. 

For Sylvia's part, his management bears a great deal of the responsibility, but honestly there's not a lot anyone could do with his career. He's deeply unpopular with fans after his string of painfully tedious decision wins in his last UFC title run and taking a string of losses to Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Fedor Emelianenko and Ray Mercer has really got his reputation in the shitter. 

Frankly, Sylvia looked like a bum against Mercer. He went into that fight grossly over-weight, clearly under-trained and with a stupid game plan and got what he deserved. Mercer showed what happened when you try to box with a former heavyweight champion of the world. And Sylvia's poor conditioning and performance showed a lack of self-respect and booking the fight in the first place showed a lack of respect for the fans and the sport.

Sylvia's had one low-profile tune up fight since then, and apparently beating Wes Sims again is just the ticket for his ailing career. Frankly, I think Sylvia would have a lot to gain by stepping in against Josh Barnett. Even if he is likely to lose, being on a major stage against a major opponent will do far more for his career than pummeling Wes Sims in the most remote corner of Canada.

But the situations of both men show how little room for error there is for even the top MMA fighters. If you are on the outs with the UFC, it's awfully hard for an (expensive) veteran to get work.

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