Josh Barnett reignites hope for UFC deal, saying it's where he can cement his legacy

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

The natural course of business negotiations often produces several stops and starts. Parties must continually reassess their own wants and needs, as well as the shifting economy beneath their feet. Throw in complicating factors like outside suitors, market pressures and public relations, and the recipe for reaching a deal can grow far more complex.

Most of the time, it comes down to one single thing, and it's whether the two parties want to work together. When they do, any barrier can be jumped, and a true middle ground can be found on even the most problematic of issues.

From the sounds of it, the possible deal between Josh Barnett and the UFC could be trending in that direction. Or more accurately, that is Barnett's hope. Appearing on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour, Barnett indicated in several different ways that the UFC would be the most logical home for his services.

The 35-year-old, who has been a free agent since submitting Nandor Guelmino in January on the last Strikeforce show, said that there was only one stumbling block in reaching a deal with the Las Vegas-based promotion. Though he declined to say what it was out of respect to the promotion, he suggested the two could still reach a deal, saying that the one issue is "a very, very simple thing, in my mind."

Asked by host Ariel Helwani if he wants to fight in the UFC next, Barnett didn't mince words.

"I would love to fight in the UFC next," he said, before noting how many times fans have quizzed him about the possibility of fighting Frank Mir over the years.

"I’ve been a top 10 fighter longer than anybody active in mixed martial arts at this time," he said. "And there's a real good reason for that. To be in the UFC would mean to go back to where I already won the belt, to go back to where I was a champion at 24 years old, and try to cement my legacy as an MMA fighter. I don't really feel I can create that legacy and finish on a high point unless I’m there."

The admission will no doubt create new buzz, as in February, Barnett officially declined the UFC's offer and turned his attention elsewhere.

Barnett said his management team is talking to all available suitors and has received offers, but that "the UFC would be the most attractive place to ply my wares."

Barnett had a five-fight run in the UFC in the early 2000s, capturing the heavyweight championship in March 2002, though he was stripped of the belt after testing positive for steroids.

After leaving the promotion, he became something of a fighting mercenary, competing in PRIDE, Sengoku, Affliction and Strikeforce, among other places. With a 32-6 record, he is considered by most of the sport's observers to be the best heavyweight not under Zuffa contract.

There was a time when Barnett was being linked with Bellator, but he said he wasn't as close to signing with Bellator as he was of signing with the UFC.

"Well, I think the right deal just hasn’t put itself together," he said. "There's been a lot of good pieces. These promotions have a lot to offer in terms of competition, promotional value, and opportunity to show the fights to a large audience. The fighting part of it, I’m game for all of it. I think it’d be a blast no matter where. But you can't just run out and start punching people without thinking about the business aspects of it. Between me and my manager, the right scenario just hasn’t presented itself just yet."

Barnett said he would like to finalize something as soon as possible. In regards to the prospects of him fighting Mir, he said he'd be open to it, even though he predicted Mir would find out he wasn't in his league.

"With Frank, it's just the one fight everyone brings to me," he said. "I think part of that stems from us being American submission guys, and being big dudes, and having the fight between [Antonio Rodrigo] Nogueira and Mir, me and Nogueira, there's some commonality between opponents. I can understand why fans look at it in that way. And honestly, yeah, Frank's been around a long time. I’d have absolutely no issue fighting him in any way, shape, or form. I think it would be something that would get people excited, but I'll be honest. If I'm just being humble, I think I get people excited anyway."

As the days and months tick by, time is of the essence, but Barnett's public statements make it clear that he's ready to return to the negotiating table and try again to reach a deal.

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