It took Josh Barnett
a little bit to clear the cobwebs and open up, but when he did on Monday's edition of "The MMA Hour," he had plenty to say.
Barnett, in the studio with host Ariel Helwani for Monday's show, touched on a host of subjects, from his current suspension by the California State Athletic Commission for a third positive test for banned substances to his upcoming participation in Strikeforce's heavyweight tournament.
But perhaps most surprisingly, Barnett said he has considered walking away from the sport.
"The thought has crossed my mind to quit even dealing with organized mixed martial arts in general and just fight my own fights, however I feel like," Barnett said. "The fact of the matter is, I fight because I have to – because it's a thing that drives me, not because of anything else."
Barnett was suspended by the CSAC in July 2009 after testing positive for anabolic steroids ahead of his fight against Fedor Emelianenko at Affliction: Trilogy. The event was ultimately scrapped, and Affliction left the fight promotion business entirely.
He has since been unable to get re-licensed in California, and most states honor that suspension, as well. A lengthy appeals process dragged out through all of 2010 and still continues. Barnett said he didn't know why the process has taken so long, but blames the most recent delay – stemming from a Dec. 2 hearing in Sacramento – on the CSAC.
"I don't know what miscommunication there was," Barnett said. "I showed up exactly how I was told to and did everything that they asked. That part of the whole thing was completely unknown – the fact there was going to be an (attorney general) there – and that someone was going to essentially try and perform an adversarial relationship to me applying for the license."
For his part, though his July 2009 positive test was the third of his career, Barnett told Helwani he has never used steroids – and said even if he believed there was a problem with performance-enhancing drugs in the sport, he wouldn't say it. He even said he doesn't believe steroid use helps fighters that much.
"I think everybody is doing whatever they can to get an edge on their opponent, no matter what, be it taking anything whether it's illegal or legal," Barnett said. "Is it working? I don't really know. I don't think so. I wouldn't know (a percentage of fighters using PEDs) and even if I did I wouldn't say even if I did. ... I'm a big proponent of 'What happens in the locker room stays in the locker room.' I'm no snitch. But I fought when there wasn't regulatory bodies, and I fought guys who were way jacked to the gills (on steroids). I never cared – I just fought them anyways. I don't care what pill you take or what shot or what new supplement or what diet you do. There's only so much of anything that can really ever help you, and the rest of it is whether you've got it or you don't."
Barnett is scheduled to fight Brett Rogers in Strikeforce's heavyweight tournament – though because of his licensing issues, it is unknown when that fight will take place. He said he believed he would be fighting Andrei Arlovski, but had no issues with the change in opponent.
Some fans have been critical of the way Strikeforce positioned the heavyweights in the 8-man bracket – leaving Barnett's side with him vs. Rogers and Arlovski vs. Sergei Kharitonov. Rogers has lost two of three, Arlovski three straight and Kharitonov's fight will be just his second in nearly two years. The other side of the bracket features Strikeforce heavyweight champ Alistair Overeem vs. Fabricio Werdum and Fedor vs. Antonio Silva. Werdum recently handed Fedor his first loss in nearly 10 years.
But Barnett said he doesn't consider the other three fighters on his side of the tournament to be any slouches. Though he started his appearance on "The MMA Hour" indifferent about who his opponent would be, he said he expects the best from all of them.
"Ain't none of these guys gonna roll over for me," Barnett said. "A guy like Kharitonov or Arlovski, Brett Rogers – none of those people are going to let me past them, for sure. I don't know if they want it as bad as I do, but I know that they want it as bad as however they do. They want to be the champion. So I'm going to expect everybody to show up and fight me with the best them that they've ever been, because they want it bad enough."