The subject of retirement is a hot one among veteran MMA heavyweights these days.
Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira is at the forefront of the list, as the former PRIDE and UFC interim champion was finished for the fifth time in his past eight fights last month when he was knocked out by Roy Nelson. Former UFC champ Frank Mir is another under frequent discussion, as he's lost his past three fights in a one-sided manner.
Another former UFC champ, Josh Barnett, knows he can't fight forever. But the 36-year old Seattle native says he'll know when to walk away, and when that time comes, he'll have no problem doing so.
Asked on a recent edition of The MMA Hour how many fights he has left, Barnett explained his position.
"I can't put a real number on it, because I won't know until that time comes," Barnett said. "But I know that when it does, that's it, I'll have used up every aspect I have in terms of my athletic window. I can act, I can do other things, but once your athletic window is done there's no returning to fighting."
Barnett made headlines in recent weeks by declaring he'd like another fight with Nogueira before the latter retired. Most fighters want a chance to avenge losses, of course, and Barnett lost twice to Nogueira in PRIDE.
"What it was based on is Nogueira's statement of, I want one more fight and then I want to retire," Barnett said. "If he wanted to retire a year ago, that's his perogative of course. But if he wants to make a statement that he wants only one more fight I mean, there's really only one more fight for him to take and that's the two of us, and that's because, we could have a trilogy. That's all.
"I don't think he actually beat me the second time, but I have to accept, even if I feel the judges' decision was the wrong one, that's just the way it has to go, Barnett continued. "That's why I said, you want to call out, you want to be bold, you want to have one more fight, there's only one more fight that you should really even be considering."
Where Barnett feels he differs from Nogueira at this stage of both's respective careers, however, involves differing fight styles the two have employed over the course of their careers.
"Big Nog and me are two different types of fighters. Nogeuira lived by his chin, he wasn't afraid to take a lot of punishment in order to dish out a whole lot of punishment. Personally, I know I can take a really big shot. I'd rather not. ... Nogueira is still a fantastic grappler and a good athlete, I know he's got decent boxing skills, but he hasn't necessarily been good about making the transition to not taking it on the chin. Chuck [Liddell] was known for taking one, taking two, three, four to give one, and eventually that caught up with him. Fighters have to be a lot more judicious about the way they fight. Once you start losing your chin, you can't fight that way any more. It just doesn't work."
Speaking of veteran former champions, Andrei Arlovski, the UFC champ during much of Barnett's PRIDE heyday, is back in the UFC. For his part, Barnett welcomed the news.
"Good for Andrei," Barnett said. "I'm sure sitting on the outside looking in as a former champion has been tough for him, and having to bounce from one fight to the next can be very difficult. Not knowing when your next fight is going to come is a really difficult way to try to stay ready. So having the opportunity to claim, ‘hey, I knocked out Roy Nelson last time we fought, and now he's considered one of the more notable names in the heavyweight division.' He has a claim on deserving to be there."
Barnett has been keeping busy with non-MMA activities since his loss to Travis Browne in December. Among other things, he had a role in a Steven Seagal movie and he recently one "Most Metal Athlete" at the Golden Gods Awards.
But "The Warmaster" did admit to watching the UFC on FOX 11 bout between Browne and Fabricio Werdum, and he basically was more or less kicking himself for letting his fight with Browne, a quick first-round loss, get out of hand the way it did.
"I should have been in there for that fight, and it was really only myself to blame," Barnett said. "I knew how the fight was going to pan out, I knew what the key to winning that fight was and I knew that Werdum had it in him to do so. In the end, I didn't, what I saw wasnt entirely surprising to me, but still, I had to sit back and watch it instead of being the one that's in there. So, it's just, that fight, to me, is just deeply personal and it just sucks. I didn't show up and I paid for it and it sucks."
Sometime, perhaps sooner than later, Barnett will get his chance to step back into the cage and shake off his loss.
"All fights interest me," Barnett said. "Punching people in the face and watching them cry for their momma always interests me. ... I'm sure the opportunities will present themselves easily enough. There's plenty of heavyweights out there that could use a good ass kicking, and there's plenty who would like to see me do it."