Josh Barnett is back in an Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Octagon at UFC on FOX 18 this Saturday night (Jan. 30, 2016) inside Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., where he will face "Big" Ben Rothwell in a pivotal Heavyweight match up.
"Warmaster" recently returned to mixed martial arts (MMA) action after a 21-month hiatus in Sept. 2015 when he traded fists and elbows with super tough veteran Roy Nelson in his old stomping ground of Saitama, Japan. Barnett, 38, prevailed via unanimous decision and is now eager to continue to prove that he is among the best in the world at 265 pounds.
But, he's also got a hell of a lot on his plate at the moment between upcoming movie projects and commentating duties for professional wrestling powerhouse, New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW). However, Barnett still found some time to chat with MMAmania.com about his acting career, future in UFC, Ronda Rousey, Brock Lesnar and more!
When did your last film wrap?
Barnett: "Never Back Down 3" wrapped filming last July in Thailand before the Roy fight. I hope for it to be released sometime early this year. When I'm doing my movies, I don't have a fight anywhere near. When I'm on set, I'm doing my thing. I'm not worried about training at all. The reality of it is, I just go on the treadmill and lifted weights. I knew that it was just all a matter of staying relatively fit, so that when camp started up for the fight against Roy, I'd be great and ready to go.
Seeing as how you're as a credible person as there is to answer a question like this, do you feel that the constant grind of competing in the Octagon and filming movies wore on Ronda Rousey ahead of her title loss to Holly Holm?
JB: No idea. I couldn't really say one way or another. As a fighter, at least for myself, I always make sure no matter what I'm doing -- no matter how busy -- that it's sustainable and useful for me. If I can't be sure to do the best job I can do, in whatever I'm doing, then I don't want to divide my time up to do it in a mediocre way.
Ever get the chance to pick Steven Seagal's brain on the set of "Mercenary: Absolution?"
JB: We got on set and did our thing and tried to make the best movie we could. Maybe if I do some more films with him perhaps the topic of martial arts will come up. When you're on set 14 hours, you tend to focus on the task at hand.
Have you given any thought to where your post-fight life lies?
JB: I've heard that it's always good to bite off more than you can chew, and I'm a Heavyweight so I can chew quite a bit. I'm not really looking to streamline anything too much yet. I still have plenty of fights left in me. Even now, given the right timing, I can go out and do plenty of work in the professional wrestling ring. I've been doing commentary with Mauro Ranallo for New Japan Pro Wrestling on AXS TV, although Mauro just got picked up by the WWE. The acting stuff is great and a lot of fun. I hope to have one or two more projects come to fruition this year. Coaching has been great.
How do you think Mauro will do as the new Smackdown announcer?
JB: I think he'll kill it. I think he'll do amazing. I think it's a step in the right direction in the world of professional wrestling and the commentary. He believes in the old school ways of commentary and treating professional wrestling as a legitimate contest. That's necessary to get the emotional investment that I believe is important for why professional wrestling works at its highest level.
Staying on the topic of wrestling, what do you think the future holds for A.J. Styles, Bullet Club and Shinsuke Nakamura in WWE?
JB: My first reaction was, 'So they took Mauro, too? What are they trying to put me out of a job?' I'd like to think that it was because of some of the work Mauro and I have been doing and the popularity of New Japan Pro Wrestling, forcing WWE to go out there and take a look at things -- what is a really potent talent pool. They're great at their job.
Luke Gallows had been in WWE before, but him and Anderson make a pretty fantastic tag team. Styles and Nakamura continue to be some of the top talent in the whole world. If you just let them do their thing, they'll have success here as well. It's always difficult to know how that will turn out. Until they hit the ring, doing whatever gimmick they've decided to do, you'll never know. That's what happens with wrestlers that get picked up by WWE. There's no guarantee you'll see the wrestler you're used to watching there.
What is your view on Brock Lensar and where he ranks in the history of the UFC Heavyweight division?
JB: I think Brock Lesnar's full potential as a fighter was never really realized. His tenure was far too short and I don't always feel like the way he approached being a fighter -- not just being a fighter, but how to prepare and how to build your foundation -- that he took the best path for that. Strictly speaking, I don't have any personal grudges with Brock.
As an MMA fighter, he's something that's created. He's not something that is reality. He's not one of the greatest Heavyweights in UFC [history], as far as skill fighting-wise, or accomplishments. As far as interest and intrigue and potential, that spark that's undefined and gets your intention ... he might be the No. 1 guy of all-time in that. His title run was the easiest road to a title. It was the most cherry-picked set up there ever has been. He made great money for everybody, so in that case it was a huge success. He's built such a good foundation for himself in terms of business.
Switching gears to the current state of UFC, how do you feel about Rousey and Jose Aldo? Do they deserve rematches?
JB: No. There's far too many rematches as it is. It's not because Jose is a bad fighter, or because he's not a champion-level dude, because he is. He's shown it. That's not really the way UFC works, at least I didn't think so anyhow. In boxing, they do that quite often, but those guys are fighting maybe once a year. In MMA, they keep a more active schedule and figure out rankings based on performances. Aldo goes out there and wins a couple of fights, give him another title shot. I'm not saying he has to work himself back up all the way, but one or two quality fights would be sufficient I think.
Ronda doesn't deserve a rematch, either, and as a matter of fact, if you wanted to build a better story, the reaching the peak and then the fall and the drive to reclaim the top spot is a much more interesting story globally. If I really thought there was long-term thing to be exploited, I would say her fighting one or two matches and fighting her way back to the title would be impressive. It's also highly lucrative to have Holm and Rousey fight again. This is prize fighting, not a sport. It makes sense in the business end of things. If I was Holly, I wouldn't want to pass up a rematch with Ronda.
We can leave your past in the past, but I wanted to discuss USADA with you. What are your thoughts on its policies and what it does for UFC?
JB: I don't think anybody likes having to check in with mom when they're a grown adult ... having to give them their whereabouts every day and all the time. I actually I believe I'm the first fully random tested athlete in MMA when I worked alongside with WADA to do testing before my fight with Travis Browne. They knew what locations I'd be in for the most part, but I didn't have to fill out any quarterly filings or any of that very strict -- I never had any issue giving samples to the inspector at WADA. It wasn't a big deal to me to show that this sport can be clean. I think what they're trying to is a noble idea and in some time here it will show to be effective and useful, or ineffective. I don't know. It's not the hardest thing for anyone to deal with.
Lastly, when did the fight camp for Ben begin and what have you done to prepare for him stylistically?
JB: Probably the end of November. I've trained my ass off. Ben likes to eat a steady diet of punches and kicks to the face himself like Roy and then try to slug you back. You don't want to be on the other end of their shots at revenge. I've never seen a whole lot of ground work out of Ben, but when you've been in the game this long you can't treat someone lightly. Just because someone doesn't use that skill-set, it doesn't mean they don't possess it. He's a big ol' viking bastard and I'll have to go out as one myself and swing my long axe and see if I can't cleave his skull.