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Morning Report: Former heavyweight champion Josh Barnett negotiating release from UFC over USADA mistrust

Josh Barnett (MMAF, EL)
Josh Barnett at media luncheon.

Once again, Josh Barnett and the UFC are parting ways.

On Wednesday, MMAJunkie reported that Barnett had been released by the UFC, but speaking to ESPN, Barnett stressed that he had not yet been let go by the promotion but was currently in negotiations with the organization for his release and had no bad feelings towards the company.

“It’s true that I have asked for my release and we are discussing the terms now,” Barnett said. “Zuffa has been fantastic and above-board since I re-signed with the company. Every promise made has been kept and I have no disparaging words for them.”

Barnett also said that he is seeking his release due to the role of USADA in the UFC and his mistrust in the drug-testing agency. Barnett failed an out-of-competition USADA test in December of 2016, and despite putting forth evidence that the failure was a result of a tainted supplement, USADA still had designs on suspending the former champion. Barnett took the issue to arbitration and became the first fighter to not get any kind of suspension since USADA started leading the UFC’s anti-doping program in 2015. That victory was not enough to make “The Warmaster” feel comfortable enough to return to operating under the yoke of USADA.

“After everything I went through with USADA, and my vindication in that case, I don’t feel comfortable giving the control necessary to USADA that would continue my career in the UFC,” Barnett said.

Barnett has had a rocky road with drug testing. During his first stint with the UFC, Barnett became one of the first fighters to fail a drug test, testing positive for banned substances ahead of his fight with Bobby Hoffman at UFC 34. He only received a reprimand but in his next fight, his title winning victory over Randy Couture at UFC 36, Barnett once again failed a drug test and was ultimately stripped of his UFC heavyweight championship. He also tested positive for an anabolic steroid in 2009, scrapping a scheduled fight with Fedor Emelianenko for the Affliction organization.


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