Three months ago Josh Barnett declined an offer to return to Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), with his manager explaining that his client was going to wait for the "best deal" before making a decision about his mixed martial arts (MMA) future.
It came as somewhat of a shock, considering the Pride FC, Affliction MMA and Strikeforce standout declared just weeks earlier that he was eager to return to his old stomping grounds inside the Octagon and "wreck shop." Regardless, Barnett stuck to his guns over the course of the next two months, reiterating (here and here) that he was content to hold out until his demands were met.
The wait, according to a report from USA Today this evening, appears to be over.
Barnett recently inked a multi-fight contract and is expected to return to the eight-walled cage "later this year" for the first time since 2002, which is when he defeated Randy Couture at UFC 36 to win the Heavyweight championship. However, Barnett tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) immediately afterward, was stripped of the title and released from the promotion.
It was a chain of events that triggered and MMA odyssey for Barnett, who traveled the world over the next 10 years, laying waste to many of the top fighters (at the time), including Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Alexander Emelianenko, among others, in Japan during the Pride FC heyday. The incident, as well as the way in which he handled the fallout, irritated UFC President Dana White, who once vowed that Barnett would never be welcome back.
Never say never.
Barnett, 35, has won nine of his 10 most recent matches, dating back to 2008, with the only blip during that span a unanimous decision loss to Daniel Cormier in the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix little more than one year ago. It's unclear who Barnett will compete against in his return bout and when; however, Frank Mir, has been bandied about quite often (more here).
It wouldn't be a bad idea to book a trilogy match with the aforementioned Nogueira, either.