Despite years of ups and downs with UFC management, Strikeforce heavyweight Josh Barnett believes he's poised to make the leap to the UFC after Strikeforce stages its final show in January.
The Warmaster is a pretty upbeat guy these days.
Sure, Josh Barnett lost his last fight in the finals of the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix against Daniel Cormier in May of this year, but he's not down and out about it. "I think most people did not give him the credit he was due and deserved," Barnett told Ariel Helwani on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour. "Also they still don't quite understand how good he really is. I say, besides myself, he's the only other person that could just walk right into the UFC and win the title."
That, in a nutshell, explains Barnett's outlook these days. He's licking his wounds from his loss to Cormier, but Barnett believes he lost to arguably the best heavyweight in the world; one who could win the heavyweight title tomorrow in the UFC if given the opportunity. And it's not like he doesn't see himself in a position to do the same thing.
For those familiar with the history of the UFC, that might sound strange. Barnett and UFC President Dana White have long had a history of shared animosity largely a by-product of Barnett's 2002 dismissal from the UFC. Despite being the heavyweight champion and defeating Randy Couture at UFC 36, Barnett tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs.
From there the two spent years jabbing at each other in the press. This didn't happen every day and was very seldom full of venom, but it happened. At one point, it got serious enough that White stated Barnett would never fight in the UFC.
In other words, Barnett has a lot to be optimistic about.
"I think it's pretty likely," Barnett said about the prospects of signing with the UFC. "I think it's a good fit for a person like me. I mean, unless you don't want me to go in there and beat all those dudes up and completely throw your rankings out of whack, and change the whole perception of who the best heavyweights in the world are. Now if you don't want that, then yeah, definitely don't bring me over. But if you just want to have the biggest and best collection of heavyweights in the world, then you've got to have me there."
"I want to go where the opportunity is best," Barnett continued. "And I like the idea of that full roster over there being at my disposal to be disposed of. I've been in this game longer than the new version of the UFC has, so I'm sure that my management and everybody will work it out to wherever fits best, that's where I'll be."
Timing is not on Barnett's side, however, if he wants to do important work in the UFC. He's 35 years of age and while still competitive, he knows he's closer to retirement than the beginning of his career.
Still, he rejects the idea that retirement is imminent or that he can't compete with the best. As such, he's unwilling to say 'when' his retirement will come even if he acknowledges there's no escaping a future a future where he isn't an active fighter.
"I've been asked this, hell, since I've been 30. The more I thought about it, the more it really just came to a very stark and simple explanation that to come up with a number, or a number of fights or a length of time, or anything like that, you can't predict that sort of thing," Barnett said of retirement. "You really can't. Let's say [you predict] five more bouts. Then you get to that fifth bout but you're still able and you're capable, and you won all those five bouts and everything is going in your direction and you feel great, why now? Your mindset has already gotten to the point that, ‘I'm supposed to quit.' You're making decisions for yourself before you've even got all the data to fully make an informed choice."
For Barnett, there's still work to do. First there's the task of defeating little known Austrian Nandor Guelmino at Strikeforce: Champions in January. Assuming that goes as planned, there's the potential return to the UFC to look forward to.
And in the meantime? All 'The Baby Faced Assassin' turned 'Warmaster' really needs is to make the most out of every opportunity as long as the opportunities keep coming.
"I just came to the conclusion that I'm going to fight until I can't, and that's it. I'll know when that is. I'll be honest with myself. But otherwise, the opportunity to do this is only one point in your life, and once that opportunity and that window is closed, that's it. You don't get to come back on that one. So might as well take the absolute most out of it as you can.'"