[Josh Barnett and "King" Muhammed Lawal are arrogant, snide, and self righteous to a fault. They're also two of Strikeforce's most talented fighters, each in the upper tier of their respective weight classes. But equally as important, they have attitudes and personalities that could make for interesting fights in the UFC.]
I'll be upfront about it — Josh Barnett and King Mo just rub me the wrong way.
Regarding Barnett, it's not his abuse of performance enhancing drugs, but corny, over-the-top pro wresting shtick that would make even Vince McMahon wince. It's hard enough to convert sports fans to mixed martial arts, but men like Barnett unnecessarily blur the line between what's real and what's a gimmick. As for "King Mo," the elaborate ring entrances were an instant put-off, especially for a guy who was doing it before he even won an MMA championship.
But regardless of whether fans love or hate them, Barnett and Lawal should both be in the UFC. Because they're good fighters? Well, of course.
But equally as important, they're even better villains.
Think about it. Perhaps the only thing that MMA fans love more than paying to see a fighter they love is paying to see someone — anyone — beat up a fighter they hate. Canadians were happy to see Georges St. Pierre use Josh Koscheck as a punching bag. Post Several UFC fans wanted to see Anderson Silva sweat, even just a little bit, in his fight with Chael Sonnen, while just as many wanted to see Sonnen get his block knocked off for his shameless self-promotion. Arrogant Jon Jones is the new ire of many UFC diehards, and "Bones" doesn't seem to mind at all.
Personalties like these move the needle, and all the better when the "bad guys" in that group are consensus "Top 10" fighters.
Josh Barnett wants his fight with Daniel Cormier to be for the vacant Strikeforce Heavyweight title, knowing his stock goes up with a "real" title around his waste. And you can bet Barnett is hoping it'll do him some good, especially considering his steroid use and unflinchingly hostile remarks to Dana White. Meanwhile, King Mo wants a UFC vs. Strikeforce event to get himself a fight with a UFC fighter, and possibly a ticket into the promotion with a win.
Both ideas are pointless. Strikeforce's championships may as well be imaginary. Moreover, the UFC has no reason for a crossover event with the best talent already picked clean from the Strikeforce roster. But, each fighter has the right attitude. Barnett and Lawal are talented enough to be in the UFC, and the promotion also could benefit from their status as "bad guys" among the hard-working "good guys" who love the fans and stay clean.
In a way, it's a win-win for the UFC. Throw Josh Barnett into the mix with guys like Cain Velasquez, Junior Dos Santos, Brock Lesnar, Frank Mir, or Alistar Overeem, and the fight promotion writes itself — an unapologetic three-time cheater competing against the honest and admirable UFC heavyweight elites. As for Lawal, putting him in the same cage with Lyoto Machida, Rashad Evans, or Mauricio Rua gives the "King" a soapbox to make his brash, unapologetic personality and opinions heard (for as long as he maintains a winning record).
If they win, more fans will want them to lose. If they lose, they simply go away. Either way, it couldn't hurt, right?
[McKinley Noble is a staff editor at GamePro and an MMA conspiracy theorist. Follow his Twitter account for crazy talk, 1990s movie references, and general weirdness. Or you could just stalk him on Google.]