Former UFC champion confident of skills heading into big fight
There are few fighters who attract as much attention as Josh Barnett. Whether said attention is good or bad doesn’t matter to the Heavyweight Grand Prix semi-finalist – all that matters is that you’re watching.
Despite career turbulence that has spanned several continents and organizations, Barnett hasn’t lost in five years and is on a mission to win the tournament. He’ll look to take the next step when he faces Sergei Kharitonov this Saturday night.
“I hope anything I do is too much for him. My game plan is to beat him at every aspect, to dominate and put him away. He isn’t going to go down easy, though. That guy is tough and he’s going to fight hard till the bitter end.
Much like Barnett, the Grand Prix has also faced its fair share of adversity. With Fedor Emelianenko’s first round elimination and Alistair Overeem dropping out (and subsequently signing with the UFC), the job of carrying the card has been placed on Barnett’s shoulders.
“The focus is just where it’s going to be. It’s not about what you want; it just is what it is. That’s fine with me because I’m comfortable with it. I’ve done it before and I’m sure I’ll end up doing it again. I think people are going to be surprised with the rest of this card. I think it’s going to be very exciting from top to bottom. It’s going to entertain. It really is.”
Prior to the start of the tournament, Barnett declared the winner should be considered the best heavyweight fighter in the world. In light of all that has occurred, his feelings on the matter have changed, but he doesn’t feel it should take away from a solid accomplishment.
“It’s hard to say now with people like Overeem out of the tournament, but I feel that whoever wins this tournament should get very high marks. Will they? I don’t know, but I think they should.”
Barnett earned the opportunity to face Kharitonov after a second-round submission victory over Brett Rogers earlier this year. After the victory, Barnett gave an impassioned speech that addressed his doubters. He elaborated on that moment during our conversation.
“Winning any fight is always a big moment for me. I was glad to be back in the ring and there were a lot of people – or maybe I shouldn’t say a lot – but a there was a voice out there saying some not-so-kind things about me, so it was nice to see them eat crow. Truly, at the end of the day, it makes no difference what I do because people or going to say what they want to say. But from my perspective, I’ve always enjoyed making those who dislike me that much more unhappy. I like to make them really miserable.”
While Barnett’s profile in the MMA world will continue to draw attention from all sides, his drive and talents have continually kept him amongst the top heavyweights in the world. The former UFC champion hasn’t seen the loss column since 2006, and with a lot of focus being put on the current batch of heavyweight fighters in the upper tier, he shared his thoughts on his peers.
“It’s not the most competitive I’ve seen the heavyweight field in my career, but these guys who are out here are damn tough. It’s no walk in the park.”
When asked if he feels he gets the proper respect from the MMA community, he finished the interview in classic Barnett fashion.
“I don’t. But you don’t get respect, you take it. I’ll take it…out of somebody’s ass. Or if it’s coming out of an interview? Don’t worry, I’ll get mine.”