The UFC's offer to heavyweight free agent Josh Barnett remains on the table, even though the likelihood of him taking the organization up on it decreases by the day. Barnett rejected the contract terms last week, despite the fact that his manager Leland LaBarre told MMA Fighting that the sides had agreed on compensation.
Instead, it was another undisclosed issue that halted the deal.
On Wednesday in London for the promotion of UFC on FUEL 7, White briefly addressed the situation, saying that the ball is squarely in Barnett's court.
"It's up to him," he said. "He's a big boy. He's been around a long time. He kind of flies by the seat of his pants, anyway. I mean, even after he won the [UFC] title, imagine if Josh Barnett stayed in the UFC his whole career, what he could have accomplished, the money he could have made, and all the things that could have happened. But he's his own guy, he wants to do his own thing. I got no problem with that."
Barnett (32-6), a consensus top 10 heavyweight for years, is the highest-ranked divisional talent not under the UFC banner. He's won nine of his last 10, losing only to Daniel Cormier. After his last bout, a first-round submission win over Nandor Guelmino at last month's final Strikeforce event, Barnett officially became a free agent.
For a time, it appeared the two sides would reach agreement, and White, who has had previous issues with Barnett in the past, even voiced a hope that they could reach an accord.
White, though, has had no role in the current negotiations, leaving talks to matchmaker and vice president of talent relations Joe Silva.
Barnett last fought in the UFC over a decade ago, when he took the heavyweight championship from Randy Couture at UFC 36 in March 2002. However, he later tested positive for the steroids boldenone, fluoxymesterone and nandrolone, and was eventually stripped of the belt by the promotion. He went on to become something of a career mercenary, competing in Pancrase, PRIDE, Sengoku, Affliction, DREAM and Strikeforce, among others.
Barring any change of plans, Barnett's future seems to be back out on the open market.
"I know there's an offer on the table for him," White said. "If he wants to take it, it's been offered. And if not, he's always been his own guy, anyway."