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Josh Barnett expected to appear for TNA Pro Wrestling tonight

Josh Barnett (EL) Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Suspended UFC fighter Josh Barnett is expected to return to pro wrestling tonight and make his debut at a taping for TNA Wrestling.

Barnett, a former UFC heavyweight champion, has a pro wrestling background in Japan and currently announces for a pro wrestling television show. He is in Orlando on Thursday, where TNA is finishing up an eight-day taping schedule at Universal Studios.

The belief is that there will be some sort of a confrontation with Barnett against TNA world champion Bobby Lashley, who is also an MMA fighter for Bellator, creating a unique UFC vs. Bellator battle within the pro wrestling world. Whether they will do just a confrontation, or a confrontation that leads to a match tonight or at a later date is unclear.

TNA tapes well ahead of time, so as far as the television product is concerned, Lashley has yet to win the championship. Lashley's championship win will air on Jan. 26 on the TNA weekly show on Pop TV.

Tonight's taping will be for episodes that will air in late February and early March. It is the last night of the current run of tapings, so if the match isn't taped tonight, and it's part of a longer storyline, it wouldn't be taped until March.

Barnett is on a provisional suspension from UFC stemming from an out-of-competition drug test administered by USADA on Dec. 9.

TNA in the past has used MMA fighters, including Tito Ortiz, King Mo Lawal, Frank Trigg, Marcus Davis and Rampage Jackson, as part of its matches and storylines..

Barnett currently announces New Japan Pro Wrestling on AXS television, the show which serves as the lead-in for the station's Friday night MMA fights.

Barnett, a disciple of Billy Robinson, a notable British submission and wrestling expert who was one of pro wrestling's biggest stars of the 70s, debuted as a pro wrestler on January 4, 2003, when he headlined a major event at the Tokyo Dome. In recent years, he has done some pro wrestling with the IGF (Inoki Genome Federation), a promotion that has used a number of MMA fighters from the past such as Jerome LeBanner, Don Frye, Tim Sylvia, Kazuyuki Fujita, Tank Abbott and others. In 2011, with the IGF, he had a prior pro wrestling match in Tokyo with Lashley. Barnett has never done a major pro wrestling match in the U.S.

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