Former UFC heavyweight champion Josh Barnett has been out of the spotlight so far this year but has major plans for his Octagon return. Barnett, who was knocked out in his last fight by Travis Browne at UFC 168, is hoping to face Junior dos Santos when he returns later this year.
Barnett’s desire to face dos Santos was passed along by his manager on the latest episode of UFC Tonight. “The Warmaster” is intent on making one last title run, and the veteran is well aware the road to the belt likely goes through dos Santos. Barnett made a triumphant return to the organization after an 11-year absence by blasting out Frank Mir at UFC 164 before suffering the setback against “Hapa.”
Barnett won the UFC belt back in 2002 by defeating Randy Couture but was released after a failed post-fight drug test. He’s faced top-shelf competition during a well-traveled 40-fight career. Barnett has also competed against Daniel Cormier, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic and Mark Hunt. The 36-year-old veteran has produced 28 finishes by knockout or submission in his 33 career victories.
A fight against dos Santos would pose a very dangerous threat, but it would also give Barnett the chance to make a major statement if he could pull off the upset. Dos Santos is still widely regarded as the second best heavyweight in the UFC behind only current champion Cain Velasquez. “Cigano” hasn’t fought since being stopped by Velasquez in their trilogy fight at UFC 166. The hard-hitting Brazilian was to have had a homecoming fight last month against Stipe Miocic but was forced out of the TUF Brazil 3 finale due to a broken hand.
It’ll be interesting to see whether matchmakers get on board with the idea of a Barnett-dos Santos matchup next. It does make sense with both fighters coming off losses and both currently ranked in the top-5. However, there may be other options that the organization is already considering.
No. 4 ranked heavyweight contender Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva had previously stated he wanted to face Barnett when he returned from his current suspension while dos Santos would still seem to have unfinished business against the No. 6 ranked Miocic. The Ohio native blasted out late replacement Fabio Maldonado in just 35 seconds in the TUF Brazil 3 finale main event and is still very interested in facing the former champion.
No matter how things play out it’s clear that Barnett remains driven in his quest to make one more title run. He’s likely to get a major assignment upon his return, and “The Warmaster” will be looking to make amends for his last Octagon performance.
Rick LaFitte is an MMA Writer for Rant Sports