Affliction Grim Reaper and former PRIDE star Josh Barnett is reportedly making his return to mixed martial arts and could debut under the DREAM banner at the Yokohama Arena on March 22, according to MMAWeekly.
***UPDATE: A representative from Barnett's camp has informed MMAmania.com that nothing has been signed at this time and as of 3/2/10 Barnett remains a free agent.
Barnett hasn't competed since failing a pre-fight drug screening for anabolic steroids prior to a showdown with Fedor Emelianenko at Affliction: "Trilogy" in summer 2009. The last minute catastrophe led to Affliction MMA's house of cards to come crashing down, calling it quits as a fight promoter and returning to the UFC as a corporate sponsor with its clothing brand.
Several intriguing fights were scrapped as a result, forcing fighters to search for work elsewhere ... Barnett included.
"The Baby Faced Assassin" has enjoyed a successful career in "The Land of the Rising Sun" in this capacity for several years. Now it appears with his options limited stateside, the former UFC champion has decided to head overseas once again to try and make a living.
Barnett's quest to appeal the denial of licensure to fight in the state of California (following his bust by the CSAC) is turning into a prolonged ordeal. Last Month, the appeal was delayed for a fourth time and is now scheduled for a April 20 hearing.
The sticking point this time turned out to be Barnett's absence at the session. The legal counsel was present and ready to plead his case regarding the testing procedures and chain of custody regarding his positive steroid sample from July 2009; however, the commission ruled it would not proceed without the fighter being present.
Barnett has been out of the country, according to his attorney, Michael J. DiMaggio, competing in Antonio Inoki's IGF event in Tokyo at JCB Hall.
Now it's likely he won't return home before the April hearing -- if he decides to return at all if in fact he's back on the Japanese assembly line.
Keep in locked on MMAmania.com as we'll let you know more on Barnett's future when it's announced.