It looks like Josh Barnett will not close out his accomplished career with the Ultimate Fighting Championship after all.
The former heavyweight champ has informed ESPN that he’s asked for his release from the UFC, due to its affiliate with USADA. MMA Junkie has confirmed with sources that the promotion has agreed to let the 40 year-old go.
In the aforementioned story from ESPN, Barnett was quoted saying the following:
“It’s true that I have asked for my release and we are discussing the terms now,” Barnett said. “Zuffa [parent company of the UFC] has been fantastic and above-board since I re-signed with the company [in 2013]. Every promise made has been kept and I have no disparaging words for them.”
“After everything I went through with USADA, and my vindication in that case, I don’t feel comfortable giving the control necessary to USADA that would continue my career in the UFC.”
The “vindication” Barnett referred to stems from the successful appeal he launched, after he was flagged for banned substances in late 2016. “The Warmaster” denied knowingly taking any PED and although it was determined the positive test was due to a contaminated supplement, Barnett spent over a year fighting the case.
Since Barnett had tested positive for banned substances in the past, he was facing a four year suspension.
The California fighter’s last bout took place in September, 2016, when Barnett submitted Andrei Arlovski in round three.
So, it will be interesting to see where Barnett winds up. Since he’s worked with Scott Coker in the past, it wouldn’t be surprising if we saw him in the Bellator cage. Of course, since Barnett has fought and wrestled in Japan extensively, bouts with Rizin could be likely as well.
This is a hit for the UFC’s heavyweight division. While most folks likely didn’t see Barnett winning the UFC championship again, he was one of the promotion’s top heavyweights. Further, due to Barnett’s legacy and ability to promote fights, things are always interesting when he’s booked for a card.
After returning to the UFC in 2013, Barnett went 3-2, and also earned wins over Roy Nelson and Frank Mir.