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Josh Barnett still wants to fight, planning MMA return next year

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Josh Barnett (MMAF, EL)
Josh Barnett at media luncheon.
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

LAS VEGAS -- Former UFC heavyweight champion Josh Barnett is a free agent, and he says he recently got an offer in the mail that just might be too good to be true.

“I did receive a very mysterious letter in the mail the other day, about an island, at a secret location,” Barnett told reporters on Monday at the Quintet 3 open workouts. “They would fly us out to Hong Kong first and then charter a boat out to this island. They say that they’ve held tournaments there before. It sounds familiar. In this one, I just hope I don’t end up in a room full of mirrors.”

If that story rings a bell, it is, of course, the plot to the classic Bruce Lee film “Enter the Dragon,” so it sure is a shame that letter, sent a good five years before Barnett was born, arrived in his mailbox about 45 years too late.

In the meantime, Barnett, one of the sport’s true free spirits, is being careful in picking his next spot. Barnett’s most recent UFC run ended in a mutual parting of the ways in June, after the former champion had been cleared by an independent arbitrator over a USADA suspension due to a banned substance in a supplement.

Barnett’s, whose last fight was a submission win over Andrei Arlovski in Sept. 2016, is 40 and has a wide variety of interests, from his gig on AXS-TV as color commentator for New Japan Pro Wrestling, to catch wrestling and submission grappling, to acting, to MMA. So he’s not going to lock down exclusively with an MMA promoter who would keep him from pursuing his other interests.

Before the media day promoting Quintet’s event at Orleans Arena on Oct. 5, which will be broadcast on UFC Fight Pass, Barnett explained to MMA Fighting that while a return to the ring or cage is on his agenda, it’s simply going to take the right fight to get him to commit.

“It’s got to excite me,” said Barnett, who will be a part of Kazushi Sakuraba’s squad in the four-team Quintet event. “It has to be the right name, the right time, the right setting, it has to fit in with the rest of my schedule. I’m not going to lock down to one promoter. I still want to fight, you’ll see me fight some time next year, it’s just a matter of when and where.”