Josh Barnett returns to action today (Friday October 23rd) in Poland where he takes on former KSW heavyweight champion in Marcin Rozalski in KSW’s new bare knuckle boxing promotion Genesis. And as if bare knuckle boxing wasn’t already brutal enough, Genesis rules allow for elbows as well, which we’re sure is just going to add more blood to an already bloody circus. The event goes down at 8PM in Poland, or 2PM EST for us Americans.
So how did the 42 year old Barnett, former UFC champion, King of Pancrase openweight champion, and PRIDE contender, end up bare knuckle boxing in Europe? Unsurprisingly, Coronavirus played a part, as it has in most things this 2020.
“Availability,” Barnett told Submission Radio. “Because when we booked this thing, no one was doing events but the UFC. And so I was looking abroad to find a place I can go and get in the ring where they have opened up enough, and that brought me to my connections in Poland. It’s always just how it used to be, just how I started out, except with no head butts and no grappling in this one. But to hell with it, right? It will work out.”
TONIGHT!!— Alan Murphy (@AlanMurphyMMA) October 23, 2020
Former UFC heavyweight champ @JoshLBarnett
Former KSW heavyweight champ Marcin Rozalski
Bare Knuckle Boxing w/elbows allowed!! @GenesisBKS
8pm/ 7pm/ 2pm EST pic.twitter.com/gpPlcye9rn
“It reminds me when we all started this whole thing but again, there’s no grappling in this,” Barnett said in a separate interview with MMA Fighting. “No kicking or kneeing. I’ve trained boxing for many years. It’s one thing to go out there and use striking skills in an MMA sense but that’s more of a specific discipline in its own. Because you’re taking into account the clinching and the takedown element. Whereas boxing for example, it’s got a different rhythm, a different timing. There’s been a few people in MMA with high level boxing experience that weren’t always necessarily able to make their boxing shine.”
Although bare knuckle boxing is experiencing a relatively new resurgence, Barnett has seen enough to know a big factor in fighting is how quickly a naked fist slices up the face.
“I treat every punch like it’s real,” Barnett said. “Like it’s a real blade. Even the way I do my bag work and how I hit, making those punches score and realizing it’s not always about landing a big shot here. Some of it is just being accurate and catching him right on the end of the knuckles, on the soft tissue and opening him up.”
We imagine there will be no clear decision on his bare knuckle future until his fight with Rozalski is done with. But Barnett made it clear that he still has plans for MMA and Bellator specifically. When asked by Submission Radio what his Bellator goal was, “The Warmaster” didn’t hesitate.
“The Fedor fight,” Barnett replied. “To be able to get in the ring with my friend while there’s still an opportunity to do so, to face one of the greatest heavyweights of all time for sure, and put it on the line, see the two of us finally get a chance to lock horns. And that’s not to say anything against the Bellator title, cause I would love to add another prestigious title belt to my collection, but the title is only as worthwhile as the man that holds it.”
“Yeah, I guess [I’d rather] have Fedor fight for the title, win, and then I fight him. You can’t ask for anything better than that.”