Bloody Elbow has confirmed Strikeforce heavyweight Josh Barnett, who is scheduled to fight on the Strikeforce: Overeem vs Werdum card in Dallas on June 18, has not yet been licensed to fight in Texas. Barnett is booked to face Brett Rogers in the second installment of the first round of the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix.
Yesterday, Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker assured the media that Barnett would be licensed in time for the fight. According to Susan Stanford, Public Information Officer for the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation, Barnett has until 72 hours before fight time to complete his application, but has not yet done so.
Earlier today Stanford told Bloody Elbow that "Mr Barnett's application is incomplete."
She declined to state what additional materials Barnett needs to submit to complete the application, but she did confirm that he has submitted some materials to begin the application process.
Ominously, Stanford also indicated that Texas authorities would weigh Barnett's status with the California State Athletic Commission when deciding whether or not to license him to fight.
Barnett infamously failed a drug test administered by the CSAC in 2009, forcing the cancellation of his Affliction bout with Fedor Emelianenko. That entire card was cancelled when Barnett could not be licensed in California. Barnett had to wait a full year before re-applying in California but after several botched attempts, post-poned and missed hearings, Barnett abandoned his attempts to be licensed in that state altogether.
George Dodd, Executive Officer of the California State Athletic Commission, indicated that in order for a fighter to obtain licensure in the State of California, he or she must request a hearing and appear in front of a committee. Barnett has not requested any such hearing, and the next scheduled meeting of the CSAC is slated to take place on June 20, two days after the scheduled Strikeforce event.
Texas has a bit of a reputation as a lax licensing state. Most notoriously they allowed Antonio Margarito to face Manny Pacquiao in a big money PPV main event held in Cowboys Stadium after Margarito had been stripped of his license in California for allegedly attempting to plaster his hand wraps for a bout against Shane Mosley in January 2009.
Regarding Margarito, Texas authorities referenced a statement issued by the Association of Boxing Commission in advance of the Pacquiao fight saying, that because "Mr. Margarito has fulfilled his obligations per the ABC (which was to appear before the CSAC before applying for licensure to another state/tribal commission in the United States) and thus he is now free to pursue licensure with any ABC member commission." Even though the CSAC denied Margarito at that hearing, his appearance gave the ABC (a notoriously flexible and accommodating body) and Texas authorities the necessary fig leaf to approve the lucrative Pacquiao-Margarito bout.
Barnett did appear in front of the CSAC early this year, but he withdrew his application mid-hearing and would not meet that precedent.
The 2009 test failure was the third time Barnett had failed a drug test. He was stripped of the UFC heavyweight title in 2002 after testing positive for for three anabolic agents; Boldenone metabolite, Fluoxymesterone metabolite and Nandrolone metabolite after his UFC 36 bout with Randy Couture. He had previously failed a non-binding provisional drug test administered by the NSAC.
After leaving the UFC, Barnett fought for most of the 2000's in Japan, both MMA (for Pride Fighting Championships and Sengoku) and as a pro-wrestler. Barnett successfully passed drug tests while fighting twice for the Affliction promotion in 2008 and 2009 before failing the test in advance of Affliction III.
UPDATE: Barnett responds to this report via Twitter:
I would just like to give a warm and hearty "F**k You" to BloodyElbow and anyone else for irresponsible "gotcha" journalism.
UPDATE 2: Sergio Hernandez of MMA Mania reports that he has contacted Susan Stanford and she said:
Of the 16 fighters scheduled to compete, they have 9 completed applications and 7 incomplete applications.
UPDATE 3: MMA Junkie spoke to the Susan Stanford later in the day:
Stanford said Barnett's history in California is not a factor in his application for licensure in Texas because the fighter is not currently under administrative suspension on a registry of fighters maintained by the Association of Boxing Commissions.
When I spoke to her she indicated Texas would weight Barnett's status IF he was in the ABC data base. Apparently she checked.
Lead reporting on this story by Curt Heinrichs, all details confirmed by Bloody Elbow's editorial team.