(Photo courtesy of God Bless the Ring)
Josh Barnett has kept a low profile since testing positive for anabolic steroid ahead of the July 2009 showdown with Fedor Emelianenko and subsequently becoming the catalyst for the dissolution of Affliction.
Aside from the rumored negotiations with Strikeforce and repeated postponements of a re-licensure appeal to the California State Athletic Commission, updates about Barnett's whereabouts and future plans have been few and far between.
Nevertheless, the tarnished former UFC heavyweight champion and Pride FC standout have surfaced sporadically in various places. First, he worked a pro-wrestling gig at Inoki Genome Foundation event in Japan last September. Then he took home gold in the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu World No-Gi Championship in Long Beach, Calif. in November.
Most recently, he hooked up with former Sengoku lightweight champion, Satoru Kitaoka for a one-on-one chat for a program on a combat sports channel on SKY Perfect TV, a Japanese direct broadcast satellite service.
Barnett, the reigning Open-weight King of Pancrase, and Kitaoka, a long-time welterweight competitor in Pancrase, conversed on topics that ran the gamut from their love for Pancrase and catch wrestling to what they enjoy doing on their off-days. Their chat session is set to air on Tuesday night in Japan.
It is unclear whether Barnett talked about what he has in store for himself in near future during the session. But it seems that he has kept himself busy, competing in No-Gi grappling tournaments and grooming up-and-coming fighters. In fact, he spoke about eventually sending his proteges - currently numbering around five or six - to compete in Pancrase.
Kitaoka, who is coming off back-to-back losses against Mizuto Hirota and Jorge Masvidal, stated his plan to return to the ring in June in Pancrase. When Barnett was asked if he is willing to task one of his fighters with taking on Kitaoka, he answered in affirmative. Furthermore, he spoke about his wish to send one of his fighters to live and train in the Pancrase-affiliate gym that houses Kitaoka and Yuki Kondo, among others.
Finally, Barnett gave a complimentary send-off to Hidehiko Yoshida, whose retirement event is scheduled for April. Barnett and Yoshida, two former Pride FC mainstays, squared off in Sengoku's inaugural event in 2008 and Barnett triumphed with heel hook. Calling Yoshida a "wonderful friend and training partner," Barnett extolled the former Olympic gold medalist's contribution to judo and Japanese MMA.
With his deep tie to Japanese MMA and pro-wrestling and self-professed affinity for the "otaku" culture, the "Baby-faced Assassin" remains a popular figure among Japanese MMA fans. While his contract with Sengoku seems all but expired, DREAM looms as a solid option for him. Strikeforce has arguably the stronger heavyweight roster than DREAM, but considering the formal alliance between the two organizations, signing with either will likely land him a few big fights (i.e. Fedor Emelianenko, Alistair Overeem). What does the future hold for him? Chime in!!