Barnett, like Chael Sonnen, has figured out something important. In today’s MMA environment, you need to be more than a fighter. You also need to be an entertainer. Barnett is one of the most charismatic fighters in the world, largely because he brings a pro wrestling mentality to the sport. Barnett isn’t some hardcore fighter who takes himself too seriously.
He’s skilled and tough, but more than anything, he knows that he needs to entertain. How does Sonnen get to fight for the middleweight and light heavyweight championships in back-to-back years, and then get to headline UFC Fight Night on Fox Sports 1?
It’s not because Sonnen is the best fighter in the world. It’s because he’s the most entertaining fighter in the world and people want to watch him, win or lose.
Barnett has similar qualities. He regularly cuts pro wrestling-style interviews after his matches. After he beat former Strikeforce standout Brett Rogers in 2010, Barnett grabbed the microphone from Gus Johnson and talked to the crowd.
“Bit by bit, inch by inch. one by one, I am going to take them down and add one skull to the collection, then the next, to the next until I am standing on a pile of bodies with a pile of gold in my hand,” Barnett said to a wild crowd response.
Barnett is a fighter and an entertainer. He will get to show that off again in the UFC more than 10 years after he won the UFC Heavyweight Championship. Barnett left the UFC after testing positive for banned substances.
With all that behind him, he’s ready to make a run at UFC gold. The UFC needs Barnett to win because he has the power to lift the brand to the spot where the UFC wants it: in the mainstream. A win over Mir could launch Barnett into the title picture, and the UFC could have a badly-needed breakout star.