Josh Barnett a.k.a. “The Warmaster” is once again a UFC fighter. After months of deliberation the former UFC heavyweight champion has signed a multi-fight agreement with the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
The news was first reported by USA Today on Wednesday. Barnett has since confirmed the signing via Twitter, saying:
"The enemy has returned. I've signed w/the @UFC & no heavyweight is safe. They're all due a lesson in violence from the Warmaster. #ufc #mma"
Now 35-years-old, Barnett (32-6) entered the UFC Octagon for the first time in November 2000 at the ripe old age of 23 when he faced Gan McGee at UFC 28 and won via second round TKO. At that time in his career “The Baby-Faced Assassin” had been fighting professionally for three years and was 10-0.
Barnett returned to the Octagon at UFC 30 dropping a second round KO to Pedro Rizzo. He bounced back four months later submitting Semmy Schilt via armbar at UFC 32, then knocked out Bobby Hoffman at UFC 34 later that year, earning himself a shot at the UFC heavyweight title.
On March 22, 2002, at UFC 36, Josh Barnett knocked out reigning UFC heavyweight champ Randy Couture at 4:35 of the second round to become the seventh UFC heavyweight champion in history. The joy was short-lived however, as Barnett was later stripped of the title after testing positive for anabolic steroids.
Barnett spent the next several years fighting in Japan for Pride and other organizations and had good success, winning the Pancrase Openweight Championship and making it to the finals of the Pride 2006 Openweight Grand Prix.
In July 2008 Barnett made his debut for Affliction against old rival Pedro Rizzo, the only fighter who had bested him during his days in the UFC — Barnett knocked him out in the second round. Barnett returned for Affliction’s second event in January 2009 and stopped Gilbert Yvel in the third round with strikes.
In August 2009, Barnett, who was the No. 2 ranked heavyweight at the time, was set to take on No. 1 ranked heavyweight Fedor Emelianenko at “Affliction: Trilogy”. Emelianenko was perceived as the most dominant force in MMA — his mythology was at its peak — and Barnett was seen as one of the very few, if not the only man at the time who could pose a real threat.
Ten days before the event Barnett tested positive for anabolic steroids for the second time in his career. The bout was called off, the entire event was canceled and the entire promotion eventually ended up folding. Affliction’s VP Tom Atencio later blamed Barnett for bringing down the entire promotion. Needless to say it was dark days for the “Baby-faced Assassin”.
In 2011 Barnett signed on for Strikeforce’s heavyweight grand prix where he defeated Brett Rogers and Sergei Kharitonov but lost to Daniel Cormier in the finals. He returned for one final Strikeforce bout in January of this year, submitting little-known Austrian Nandor Guelmino in the first round.
Barnett is still seen as one of the top 10 heavyweights in the world and has maintained that standing for the majority of his career. His return to the UFC brings a long-awaited welcome addition to the heavyweight roster. The Warmaster is expected to make his Octagon return later this year although an opponent has not been named. An official announcement from the UFC should be forthcoming.