Kyle Terada-US PRESSWIRE
Strikeforce heavyweight Josh Barnett doesn't seem to be getting much work in North America, so he has agreed to head back to Japan to defend a title that's been dormant for almost 10 years - the King of Pancrase Openweight title. MMA Weekly has the news:
Top 10 heavyweight Josh Barnett will return to Pancrase next year to defend his openweight King of Pancrase title. The Warmaster, according to yahoo.co.jp, had a meeting with Pancrase CEO Masakazu Sakai after Barnett’s recent professional wrestling match with Shinichi Suzukawa at Inoki Genome Federation.
The meeting seems to have been fruitful. Barnett has agreed to defend his KOP title next year during the Pancrase 20th Anniversary Tour, against any opponent Sakai wants to put in front him. Barnett stated that he is a part of the Pancrase family and wants the legendary organization and its fighters to reach new heights of popularity.
Barnett picked up the title by defeating Yuki Kondo in August 2003, and defended it twice later in 2003 by submitting Yoshiki Takahashi and K-1 legend Semmy Schilt. He then moved onto other promotions in Japan before coming back to North America to compete for Affliction and Strikeforce. He lost to Daniel Cormier in the Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix finals and had been told he'd fight once more in SF, but nothing has come of it so far. At this point, it seems unlikely that he'd be moving over to the UFC, but stranger things have happened.
UPDATE: Sherdog talked with Barnett's manager, Leland Labarr, who said there's nothing to the Pancrase rumors:
It’s not true. I guess [Pancrase] talked to Josh while [Josh] was [in Japan], and they said they would love to have him back, but there was nothing [to it],” LaBarre told Sherdog.com. “Certainly Josh would never indicate that he was going to go fight there, and they never reached out to me. There is nothing imminent. There is nothing that we are planning on doing. I can’t imagine that happening. There are no discussions, and there have been no discussions.