With Strikeforce closing shop after its final event later this month, its remaining upper-tier fighters are moving over to the UFC.
Heavyweight Grand Prix winner Daniel Cormier has already been confirmed for the move but tournament runner-up Josh Barnett remains in limbo. Fans want to see him back in the UFC but Dana White isn’t so sure.
“I don’t know, we’ll find out soon though. We’ll see,” White says when asked about the chance of the popular heavyweight returning to the organization where he was once the heavyweight champion.
The UFC president’s reticence has to do both with incidents in Barnett’s career and with their personal relationship, which has not been a particularly good one.
At UFC 36 he won the title in a fight with Randy Couture only to then test positive for three different steroids. He was stripped of the title immediately and cut from the roster.
It was a blow for the UFC at the time because Barnett had beaten all the top heavyweights on the way to the title win so his exit devalued the division.
Barnett went on to fight for Pride FC, where drug testing wasn’t an issue, before returning to the US and signing a contract with Affliction MMA.
Two wins under the Affliction banner had him lined up for a fight with Fedor Emelianenko for August 2009. But then he failed a pre-fight drug test and the fight was pulled.
That led to the entire event being cancelled and then Affliction ceased operations as an MMA event promoter, leading to accusations that Barnett had killed the organization (in truth Affliction’s ridiculously expensive fighter contracts, particularly with Fedor, was behind the demise).
With his history of failing drug tests at crucial times one can understand why Barnett makes the UFC president wary. That’s without all the back and forth between them in public over the years. Josh Barnett back in the UFC? Don’t hold your breath.