Josh Barnett recovering from knee injury, eyes rubber match against Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

"Warmaster" will make his Octagon return sooner rather than later. And the opponent he has in mind sounds great only in theory.

He's back! Well, almost.

Josh Barnett has been awfully quiet as of late, keeping his distance from the sport since suffering a crushing knockout loss to Travis Browne at UFC 168.

And there is a good reason for his reticence (via MMA Hour):

"I should have been in there for that fight and it's really only myself to blame on that. That fight to me is just deeply personal and it just sucks. I didn't show up and I paid for it. This isn't the kind of job where you have an off day behind the mic -- people might make fun of your diction, but no one is going to elbow you in the back of the head for it."

The fan favorite scored a few acting roles in his time away. And believe it or not, one of those roles sees him entertain alongside the revered (and/or often hated) Steven Segal. After taking part in the film, which was shot in Romania, "Warmaster" is focusing on rehabilitating his knee, which he injured during a coaching session.

The Heavyweight veteran ruled surgery because he's made of metal.

Seriously:

"Some people fell into the side of my leg while everybody was on the mats going at it and I was out there coaching. It did some damage to the knee, but nothing that's not repairable by someone as metal as myself ... in fact, I could feel the adamantium weaving itself through the fibers of the tendons of my knee as we speak."

Barnett remained tight-lipped about his potential Octagon return. Apart from the knee issues, he's got plenty of stuff on his plate keeping him busy in a life outside of fighting. Nonetheless, he is targeting a return to the cage this year and he'd love a third fight against Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira ... a familiar foe from his Pride FC heyday.

The two first met at PRIDE: "Final Conflict Absolute" in 2006, where the American scored a split decision over the Brazilian to advance to the 2006 Open Weight Grand Prix final. Three months later, "Big Nog" won the rematch at PRIDE: "Shockwave" via unanimous decision.

Barnett wasted no time calling out the Team Nogueira legend:

"I don't have high hopes for it, but really what it came from was, it was really based on Nogueira's statement of saying I want one more fight and then I want to retire. So, if he wanted to go out, retire, if he wanted to retire a year ago, that's his prerogative. But if he's going to make a statement that he wants only one more fight ... I mean, there's only one more fight for him to take and that's between the two of us and that's because we'd have a trilogy. That's all. I don't think he actually beat me the second time, but since I didn't go out and finish him, I have to accept even if the judges decision I feel is the wrong one, it's just the way it has to go. That's why I said look, you want to be bold, you want to go and call out, you say you want one more fight ... there's only one more fight you should even be considering. I don't know why he wants to go after (Frank) Mir, he was never really competitive in those fights ... well, the second one he was winning, but really threw it away in the end."

The Brazilian does want to face Frank Mir, yet he's lost to him twice already and that's where Barnett feels a trilogy fight between those two would be unjust.

Nogueira was brutally knocked out by Roy Nelson at UFC Fight Night 39 in Abu Dhabi and tore his ACL before stepping inside the cage against "Big Country," which means that it's probably going to be a while before he competes again.

That is, he's given the green light to compete at all.

Therefore, is a Barnett vs. Nogueira 3 a realistic option ... or even a remotely desirable trilogy at this advanced stage of their careers?

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