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Josh Barnett’s Bellator debut set vs. Ronny Markes on Dec. 20 USO event

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

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.

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