Josh Barnett has submitted 19 fighters in over 20 years as a professional mixed martial artist, but Ronny Markes predicts the former UFC and Pancrase heavyweight champion will avoid grappling exchanges in the main event of Bellator 235 in Honolulu, Hawaii, on Friday.
Barnett and Markes make their promotional debuts after finishes in previous fights, but they’re at opposite moments in their careers.
Markes, a former UFC fighter, halted a losing skid with a second-round stoppage over Sigi Pesaleli at PFL in June, though he badly missed weight. “The Warmaster”, on the other hand, most recently fought in Sept. 2016, when he tapped Andrei Arlovski with a rear-naked choke at UFC Hamburg.
Markes, 31, has trained with the likes of Robert Drysdale, Marcelo Nunes and Vinny Magalhaes for his first appearance inside the Bellator cage, preparing for grappling techniques even as he expects his opponent to avoid the canvas.
“I don’t think he will try to grapple with me,” Markes told MMA Fighting. “I believe he will run away from jiu-jitsu and keep the fight on the feet. If the fight goes to the ground, I don’t believe that’s a good idea for him.”
Barnett has tapped but once in 43 MMA fights, a 2016 guillotine loss to Ben Rothwell. But he has almost four times more submission finishes than the Brazilian heavyweight. When jiu-jitsu black belt Markes made his MMA debut in 2007, Barnett had already won UFC and Pancrase belts.
Yet Markes remains confident he can submit the more experienced fighter.
“I train with a lot of guy guys and I believe I have good chances of submitting him,” Markes said.
The Brazilian sees his main event bout on Friday as a “golden opportunity” in Bellator, comparing it to a 2011 clash with WEC and PRIDE veteran Paulo Filho in Brazil, a victory that earned Markes a UFC deal. Almost nine years later, he expects to be ranked among the best heavyweights and a step away from the Bellator crown.
“(A win) will definitely take my career to another level,” Markes said. “I just got to Bellator, but the promotion will definitely see with me differently. I’ll be at the top of the division.
“I saw Scott Coker saying that Josh needed a win in Bellator before challenging for the belt, and I understand that because he’s a legend, so I believe that I’ll be close to a title shot after I beat him.”
Markes, who fought in the UFC as a middleweight before losses to Thiago Santos and Yoel Romero triggered his release from the company, said he’s a different fighter at heavyweight, where he no longer needs to cut weight.
“I’ve been suffering a lot to make 205,” Markes said. “That was not a problem for me in the past, but when I decided to go down to 185, that broke my metabolism and broke my body. I used to eat a bunch of crap, but never weighed over 229. That changed after I made 185 the first time. I kept going up to 238, 242, and then I lost control.”
Markes missed weight once as a middleweight in the UFC and three times for light heavyweight bouts under the WSOF and PFL banners. That said, he doesn’t rule out going back to 205 pounds in the future if he can get his weight on point.
“It was getting hard for me to cut weight,” he said. “I started my camps at 247 pounds and had to be on a diet the whole time. It’s better now that I only had to worry about training. Maybe I’ll go back to 205 in the future. I’ll talk to a specialist in Brazil and do some exams, but I’m happy to not have to worry about the weight now. It all depends on this fight. Maybe I’ll stay at heavyweight.”