Josh Barnett's (34-7) career in mixed martial arts (MMA) has spanned the course of almost 20 years.
There isn't much he hasn't seen since his professional debut back in January of 1997. From his early days on the Washington regional scene, to fighting in Japan for PRIDE and now his second stint in Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) in the heavyweight division -- where he is currently ranked No. 7 -- the former champion has witnessed the sport's steady progression to mainstream.
On Jan. 30, 2016, Barnett, 38, will take on Ben Rothwell (35-9) in the co-main event at UFC on FOX 18 in Newark, NJ, his first fight on the main FOX channel.
"The Warmaster" was a guest on SiriusXM Fight Club this past Tuesday (Jan. 19) and told hosts RJ Clifford and Michael Stets he was highly in favor of fighting on these cards.
"It's pretty amazing to think of MMA on FOX--Channel 13 where I grew up," Barnett said. "To think that I could tune in and see MMA for free on a weekday or weekend, that's pretty crazy. That's nothing short of incredible to a guy that started back in the days of ‘no holds barred,' and I like fighting on these FOX cards, personally. It's great that everybody can tune in and watch it for free on such a big platform. It's actually what I prefer."
Like Barnett, Rothwell is a pro wrestling fan and has bee incorporating some shtick in his interviews, most noticeable after he defeated Matt Mitrione in his last bout.
Barnett, who has over 50 professional wrestling matches under his belt, knows a good promo when he hears one. He wasn't heaping a large amount of praise, but he did appreciate Rothwell's efforts.
"I think they're a B+ at this moment, only because he can be taken out of character quite easily with a follow-up question," said Barnett on Rothwell's promo skills. "I dig it and I think he is having a good time with it. I support it. I support ‘Big Ben' and the stuff that he's doing out there. He's always been a dangerous heavyweight and he has quite a decent record underneath him. He's always been underrated. Even going into this fight -- I'm going to tell you I'm going to win this bad boy, but I don't think Ben is going to look anything less than a world-level heavyweight."
Rothwell is on a three-fight win streak and while Barnett isn't taking the No. 6-ranked UFC heavyweight lightly by any means and is respectful of his upcoming opponent, he's confident he is the better fighter overall.
"I think my strengths lie in that I'm just a much more well-rounded fighter," he said. "I'm quicker and I have a dangerous ground game. He's got such heavy hands and a great chin, which is always a good recipe for a decent amount of success, especially as a heavyweight. But hey, so does Roy Nelson and I didn't let him tee off on me either. I don't think Ben is going to have a whole lot of success in being able to hit me, but a lot of that has to do with my preparation. I feel pretty good for this fight."
Since returning to UFC in 2013, Barnett has gone 2-1. He did not fight in 2014, and fought only once in 2015, a win over Nelson this past September in Japan. The reason his fights have been few and far between is because his acting career has become quite busy, along with his gig as a commentator for New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW), which airs on Friday nights on AXS TV.
Barnett was paired with Mauro Ranallo, but the veteran combat sports announcer was recently hired by WWE to join the "Smackdown" commentary team. "Luckily enough," Barnett said, they were able to bring in legendary pro wrestling announcer Jim Ross to replace Ranallo.
"I'm really sad to have Mauro gone," said Barnett. "It's an opportunity and it's a changing of the dynamic that was there already. I don't think about it as any less or any more, but it's a new opportunity. I know that J.R. is an incredible professional at calling the action. It's going to be something else to sit next to him. I feel like it's surreal, watching him growing up for so many years and now being able to work alongside him, that's pretty crazy."
With his movie career bringing in more opportunities (Never Back Down 3 is his latest film) coupled with his duties for NJPW, Barnett is unsure if he will fight more or less in 2016. It seems the longtime veteran is just going to take it as it comes, starting with his January 30th date with Rothwell.
"I don’t know. It really depends on how everything rolls out," he said.
"We are going to be chugging away on AXS TV with new New Japan Pro Wrestling episodes coming up. We have a whole year’s worth of stuff there, and then any potential movie stuff that I may be involved in. Not to mention, training pros like Jessamyn Duke and Shayna Baszler, Colleen Schneider, and Victor Henry and working with all them. I have a full plate, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m trying to live most of my life and not just think about it. The UFC has a pretty heavy schedule, but there is a lot of things that go into making a fight for that company and how things turn out."