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Josh Barnett: I'd 'absolutely' fight Stipe Miocic for interim UFC heavyweight belt

LOS ANGELES -- Josh Barnett walked into a downtown steakhouse Monday afternoon thinking about a fight with Ben Rothwell. He left with his potential future plans in upheaval.

MMA Fighting's Guilherme Cruz reported Monday, while the Barnett media lunch was going on, that heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum had pulled out of the UFC 196 main event due to injury. Werdum was going to defend his title against Cain Velasquez, but Velasquez pulled out Sunday and Stipe Miocic got the call.

Now the UFC 196 main event seems to just have Miocic coming in on two weeks' notice. The card is set for Feb. 6 in Las Vegas.

The UFC has made no official announcements about Werdum pulling out.

Barnett is supposed to face Rothwell at UFC on FOX 18 this Saturday in Newark. But, if the UFC wants him, he's down to step in against Miocic for the interim title. Barnett would also be cool with the UFC moving his fight with Rothwell to the UFC 196 main event, especially if it was for an interim belt.

"If they page me 911, if they send me the number, I will absolutely take the fight," Barnett said. "If they want a heavyweight championship main event, I'm your man. I'll go in. I'll take care of business and I'll give them what they want. I'll give them what they need, which is a healthy, motivated championship fighter. That's what they'll get."

The idea of a title fight especially intrigues Barnett, who was UFC heavyweight champion was back in 2002.

"Interim title," Barnett said. "It's set up for a title match. Let's keep it going. That's what they need on Super Bowl weekend. They need a title fight. They need a heavyweight title fight. That's what we can provide. Former champ and a No. 1 contender. That's what people want to see.  They want to see championship level fights. They want to see the top guys go at it. We can do it."

Barnett, 38, said his manager Leland Lebarre was going to work on hammering out a potential deal. "The Warmaster" said it was an "opportunity" he couldn't pass up, though he's sorry to see Velasquez and Werdum both injured.

"I'm ready," Barnett said. "I'm willing. I'm capable. I'll fight Stipe. I'll go five rounds for a heavyweight title right now. We're good."

Barnett (34-7) has butted heads with the UFC in the past. Now, ironically, he's in position to save UFC 196. The co-main event of that card is Johny Hendricks vs. Stephen Thompson.

"For whatever reason, Werdum is hurt, Cain is hurt," Barnett said, "Stipe stepped up and now Stipe doesn't have a partner to dance with. I'll dance with him. And then we'll fight. And then maybe I'll dance with him again afterwards. A nice slow one. When we're all beat up and bruised and battered. When we're vulnerable. That's the time to go cheek to cheek on the dance floor."

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