Josh Barnett – Pancrase, Ring of Fire & the UFC
By Dave Carpinello
PDG: It’s been a couple of months since we talked last. What have you been doing?
Josh: I have been training and preparing for the IGF event that I am working on the 20th of December and my grappling match in Pancrase on the 22nd. I have also been working with my new team of fighters that are competing in an event in the Philippines called Ring of Fire that is being produced by Platinum Fighting Productions.
PDG: Who is fighting on your team in the Ring of Fire?
Josh: It is a five fighter team with four men and one woman on each team. For the 130 lb female weight class I have Ginele Marquez and for my four male weight class divisions I have Koji Oshi, Yuki Kondo, Renato “Babalu” Sobral and Jeff Monson. The two winning teams will go on to compete in the finals next year in China.
The following is taken from www.platinumfightingproductions.com and shows the breakdown of the other three teams and their respective fighters:
Team Gracie features Cleber Luciano, Jorge Patino, Daniel Serafian, John Marsh and Katrine Alendal. Team Gokar includes Karen Darabedyan, August Wallen, Rodney Faverus, Hakim Gouram and Amanda Buckner. Rounding out the field is Team Lion’s Den with Evan Dunham, Kyacey Uscola, Mike Whitehead, Ricco Rodriguez and Tonya Evinger. The first event in this four team tournament will take place on December 8th.
PDG: How is your training schedule now? Are you still going at it four to five times a week?
Josh: Yea I am training five days a week. Lifting weights three days a week and staying in top shape. I have been working a lot with my team but there isn’t any aspect of my game that I can’t improve on. I have found that working with them on their individual strengths and weaknesses’ makes my overall game better. There is always room for improvement.
PDG: What about your career plans in the near future besides the wrestling and grappling matches?
Josh: Not much, the show I did for Pancrase is now airing Wednesdays on Imagination TV and I just released my first training DVD called Attacking the Guard that is available on www.scientificwrestling.com.
PDG: You were recently a guest on HDNet’s Inside the MMA show and most fans were expecting a big announcement regarding a possible signing with M-1.
Josh: No there wasn’t and people need to understand that it is not that easy to set-up those kind of things. You can’t just walk in to their corporate office and sign a contract. It has become a lot more complicated recently, contracts used to be six or seven pages and now they are like 27 pages. You need a lawyer now to look through the whole thing.
PDG: Were you surprised that M-1 matched up Fedor Emelianenko with Hong Man Choi for their debut event on New Years Eve?
Josh: Yes because with Choi being a K-1 fighter I thought it was unlikely to happen but it is interesting none the less.
PDG: Choi fights Jerome LeBanner next week in K-1 and then two weeks after that he is supposed to fight the so called #1 Heavyweight in the world.
Josh: Hopefully he doesn’t get KO by LeBanner who is a very explosive striker.
PDG: I talked with your good friend Erik Paulson and he said that you are training harder now than when you were fighting full-time.
Josh: I know that I am training my brain. I am keeping very busy with weight training and staying in shape. I am really looking forward to the upcoming Oriental team tournament. Sparring and grappling with the fighters that I have on my team. I also have my two matches coming up so I need to be prepared. Who knows if I am in Japan I may get asked to fight on a weeks notice on the NYE card.
PDG: In case LeBanner does KO Choi?
Josh: Not necessarily that but who knows, anything could happen.
PDG: What would you say if M-1 offered you a fight with Mark Hunt on NYE?
Josh: It is a possibility and it all depends on what they offer. I have already built my name, reputation and drawing ability. I know what I am worth.
PDG: Going back to Paulson. What were your impressions of his comeback victory over Jeff Ford?
Josh: I thought it went very well for him. He won all aspects of his match. As soon as the fight hit the deck it was no contest at all. I want to see him get right back in there and I am curious who is out there that can match up against Erik. His manager is working on a possible fight in February with HDNet’s fights.
PDG: Most fans think you have been on the shelf to long since you have yet to fight in 2007. Are you enjoying your time off or do you want to get back in the ring/cage?
Josh: If I want to just walk out there and fight for peanuts I can do that. There are plenty of promoters willing to pay me next to nothing to fight a handful of guys. The ones that are willing to work with me at my level are very few right now and so far they have not followed through at the table. I have talked with a lot of people that just don’t deliver. It is not by design….there are a lot of players but yet very few serious minded businessman. I never expected to sit out six months let alone a full year. It has been one thing after another for me following the downfall of PRIDE.
PDG: The last time we talked was when Dana White said the Randy Couture was unbeatable and you had a different opinion on that. Now Randy has walked away from the UFC.
Josh: I know it is a difficult situation for Randy. It also shows that Dana White is someone who is quick to forget or has ADD or simply lied. He said nobody could beat Randy and that the UFC was going to get Fedor and all the other top fighters from PRIDE. Then they don’t get Fedor and all the sudden Fedor is nothing according to Dana. I mean come on which is it? Make up your mind, is Fedor a top caliber fighter or is he a nobody? If you think he is a nobody then you don’t know the business. Dana looked like an idiot saying those things. Right now the UFC doesn’t have a solid Heavyweight Division. They have had some really key fighters fall out of the picture and if you look at the division right now; who really looks like a strong champion. Mirko “Cro-Cop” Filipovic is having his difficulties and the guy that beat him Cheick Kongo lost to Carmelo Marrero. Where is that guy now? Not to say he is a horrible fighter but he is no world champion. The UFC won’t even let Andrei Arlovski fight because they are mad at him over contract negotiations. Then you have Tim Sylvia who no one wants to see have the belt again and then Brandon Vera who had a chance to move up and fell flat during his chance. The champion Randy is not fighting.
PDG: Your buddy Erik is training Brock Lesnar. What are the chances he makes some noise when he hits the cage?
Josh: He is really going to do well. I don’t know how long it will take for him to get to the top but Brock is a high level athlete. He was one of the best heavyweight wrestlers winning NCAA titles and then he proved in the WWE that he had the athleticism to perform aerial and acrobatic movements that came with that job. The people that are training him now are world class trainers and he is learning from the ground up so that he doesn’t just rush in like a bull in a China Shop. This guy is for real and the fans are going to see it.
PDG: Are you helping with his training?
Josh: I have been talking with Greg Nelson who is overseeing his training and if they need me. I’ll do it.
PDG: Not counting his K-1 fight this last summer. Are you surprised the UFC gave him Frank Mir for his first real MMA fight?
Josh: I think Kongo would have been a better fight since Kongo’s ground game is suspect and Brock would have no trouble taking him down. The UFC doesn’t want Kongo to lose right now as he is coming off a victory against Cro Cop. Going back to the Carmelo Marrero thing……I know Kongo isn’t the best out there but I do like watching him fight. On the other hand I think Mir is a good fight for Brock experience wise and I think it will show.
PDG: Babalu was supposedly signed with StrikeForce. Yet no announcement on any fight has been made. As one of his trainers, is he under contract?
Josh: I am not sure. I have been working with him on this Philippines fight since before he was working with Ken Pavia or signed his StrikeForce deal. I lined him up for the team right when the UFC released him. We have worked together for some time and we were trying to avoid any scheduling conflicts but so far none of the other organizations have offered him a fight. British Columbia banned MMA so that had an impact on one of the organizations Babalu was going to work for other than StrikeForce. I am not sure what the situation is with his StrikeForce contract. No matter what I got Babalu on my team for the fight next week and then he will have a follow-up fight because we are going to win.
PDG: If your team does win, when will the finals in China be?
Josh: Probably early March and I would bet if push comes to shove that Babalu will make more $$$$ for that fight than he will fighting for StrikeForce.
PDG: Are you looking forward to any of the fights on the UFC 79 card or the NYE M-1 promotion?
Josh: I am really looking forward to seeing all of the fights on NYE in Japan. The Fedor fight really intrigues me and I am vested in seeing him win that fight. Face it Hong Man Choi is a huge guy but he is not a huge slob like some of these guys. Obviously with his size he has raw strength and power and he is able to use it better than other guys his size. Other than that I am just excited about my guys and girl fighting in the Philippines and we have been training at the CSW gym in Fullerton, California and it is just time to go and fight.
PDG: No opinion on the Chuck Liddell vs. Wanderlei Silva fight?
Josh: It is what it is, I am sure I will see it eventually. I have been watching fights for 11 years so it is going to take something special to catch my attention.
PDG: Thanks for your time Josh and good luck with everything in December.
Josh: Thanks Dave and we’ll talk soon.
Special thanks to www.joshbarnett.tv for the pictures and Josh would like to thank the following, all of the fighters he trains and trains with and all of his sponsors.