Bellator is going back to Hawaii to salute the troops, and Josh Barnett will lead the charge.
The heavyweight veteran makes his promotional debut as a headliner on a Dec. 20 fight card that marks the second collaboration between the Viacom-owned promotion and the USO. Barnett will face UFC and PFL vet Ronny Markes, Bellator announced on Wednesday.
”Bellator and the USO Present: Salute the Troops” takes place at Neal S. Blaisdell Arena in Honolulu, which one year ago hosted the promotion and a starmaking turn for flyweight champ Ilima-Lei Macfarlane.
Macfarlane returns to her native city for the Dec. 20 event, attempting her fourth title defense against Kate Jackson, while A.J. McKee takes on Derek Campos to determine a semifinal matchup in the Bellator featherweight grand prix.
Bellator and the USO will partner on fight week for special events in Hawaii, according to a release.
Barnett returns to the cage more than three years after a submission victory over ex-champ Andrei Arlovski. The former UFC heavyweight champ and PRIDE vet subsequently sidelined from competition after failing a drug test conducted by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. Barnett contested the UFC’s anti-doping partner’s threat of an 18-month suspension and was the first fighter to be exonerated by an independent arbitrator.
Despite the favorable outcome, Barnett indicated he’d lost faith in the UFC’s anti-doping program and was subsequently granted his release from the promotion in 2018. He signed with Bellator in October.
Markes makes his Bellator debut six months after missing weight for a bout in the PFL’s second season. He was ruled ineligible for points, but still wound up winning a second-round TKO to snap a two-fight skid.