Troubled heavyweight Josh Barnett is less than two months away from the biggest fight in his career, to become the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix champion. However, his future is uncertain, with Strikeforce’s heavyweight division already been dissolved, and with Barnett having burnt more than a few bridges with the UFC.
The UFC has already signed most of the heavyweight fighters from Strikeforce quickly after Zuffa’s purchase of the brand. The two men left standing in the division – Josh Barnett and Daniel Cormier – will fight it out on 19 May in a grand prix that began a year ago.
Win or lose, Cormier’s transition to the UFC should be seamless, as it was with fellow Grand Prix participants Fabricio Werdum, Alistair Overeem and Antonio Silva. But when it comes to Barnett, the situation gets a little more complicated.
A former UFC Heavyweight Champion, Barnett was stripped of the title after he tested positive for three banned substances following his championship match with Randy Couture. He failed a second drugs test in 2009, days before a much anticipated fight against Fedor Emelianenko.
In that time he has stayed on the outskirts of the UFC, and has frequently engaged in a war of words with UFC president, Dana White.
In January last year, Barnett told MMA Hour host Ariel Helwani: "I think we could definitely get a trained monkey to get in there and do [Dana White’s] job ...I don’t care what he thinks and I never did. I don’t have any relationship with him. I don't want a relationship with a guy like that."
A week later, Dana responded: "I’m not a big Josh Barnett fan. I think he’s bad for the sport. All the shit that comes out of his mouth is stupid, and I’m not a fan... You’ll never see him in the UFC, ever."
All that was before Zuffa bought Strikeforce and Dana became Barnett’s boss. The two seem to have patched up their difference since then, but that may still not be enough to secure Barnett a UFC contract.