At the tender age of 24, Josh Barnett captured UFC gold when he defeated Randy Couture for the heavyweight title. There is a decent chance that MMA fans reading this have no idea that Josh fought in the UFC, let alone won the heavyweight title from a Hall of Famer. He will be making his UFC re-debut this weekend, taking on the 2 time UFC heavyweight champion, Frank Mir. Coincidentally, both Mir and Barnett fought on the UFC 36 card when Josh won the title. After 11 years and drastically different MMA paths, the 2 will meet inside the cage on August 31.
Barnett is unique in so many ways. He isn’t your typical fighter, yet he’s totally your typical fighter. As a personal friend, Josh is one of the smartest people I know. However, he is also the most violent person I know; when it is time to be violent. I once asked him before his fight with Gilbert Yvel if he was worried about Yvel’s known dirty tactics. Josh replied by saying that if it came to it, he could level the playing field and get just as nasty. These are the words of a huge comic book fan, a death metal head, and a seasoned catch wrestler. Despite his chiseled jaw and sometimes pretty boy look, Barnett is a throwback to a time where men were carved out of granite. He isn’t going to get in a Prius and look for the perfectly pH balanced water from Whole Foods. Josh Barnett will drive his custom muscle car and crank the sounds of Goatwhore up to 100, possibly to slay a dragon that lurks on the I-5 near Orange County.
This interview was conducted on MMA Sentinel Radio on 8/23/13 by Evan Shoman and Stephie Daniels.
Evan Shoman: When you fight someone like Frank Mir are you worried about what he brings to the table, or do you just focus on the Josh Barnett game plan?
Josh Barnett: I’ve done my research and I know how Frank fights. I’ve prepared a few little welcoming gifts for him. At the end of the day, you have to fight your fight. If I have him fighting my fight, he will be doing what I want him to do.
ES: We saw Shogun get choked out by Chael Sonnen last week. Do you feel like you are that last glimmer of hope for the ‘Pride Never Die’ attitude that fans have?
JB: No. I was there. I lived it. Nothing dies if you remember it within yourself. I was a fighter there. Whether it dies or not, is not up to me. I’m not going to go out and wave a flag for a dead organization THAT ACTUALLY OWED ME MONEY WHEN IT FOLDED!
ES: Speaking of Chael, he cuts a promo every chance he gets. When you cut a promo you never seem to get personal like Sonnen. If you win this fight with Mir, would you start calling people out?
JB: I don’t go personal because it isn’t my style. Any opponent is my enemy, so they are lumped into 1 category for me. I don’t call people out, because doing that doesn’t mean the fight will ever happen. There are so many steps between saying ‘You are a bum and your mom stinks’, to actually making a fight happen. If I want the title, I will talk about the belt and not Cain. If I really have an issue with someone, then I’ll just tell them to their face and punch ‘em. Or, I’ll punch ‘em and then tell it to their face.
ES: Have you run into Kenny Florian since your guys’ ‘incident’? (Josh came on our show and was not pleased with what Kenny had said about his performance against Gilbert Yvel, when Kenny was an analyst for MMA Live.)
JB: Last time I saw him, he was very professional on the set of UFC tonight. Everything was fine!
ES: When you are so close to fight time, do you start getting that itch to punch something?
JB: It’s not until I get there and I’m done with the media stuff. It’s when I’m saying to myself, “I’m at this hotel, I’m at this location, and it is because there is war to be made.” That is when it hits.
ES: I know Mir is aware of what you are capable of, but do you think he has a grasp on just HOW nasty you can be?
JB: No. I don’t think Frank Mir has a grip on how nasty anyone can be in the cage. “Hey Shane Carwin… You are a big overgrown silverback gorilla ball of muscle with HUMONGOUS hands. Punch me in the face.” He got socked with an uppercut then gave a look like it was nothing, then got hit with 6 more. If it was me, I would never want Shane Carwin to punch me in the face. I’ve been hit in the face by the best and not dropped. Right in the face. I don’t have to prove that I can take a shot. Given the opportunity to avoid a shot, I will. I’d like to be able to spell my own name correctly later on in life. But yes, I do think he is underestimating me and I am actually counting on that.
ES: Mir is usually very dismissive about his opponents’ skills. Does it piss you off?
JB: Kind of, I guess. But… I truly don’t care. I imagine that’s what he has to do, to prepare for a fight.
ES: That said, there are fighters and there are athletes who fight. Do you think if you have to use something as a tool to get ready to compete, you aren’t a “fighter”?
JB: Everyone has what works for them. You are right though, that there are athletes and fighters. In this sport, I think there are more athletes than fighters now. It isn’t surprising; because of how easy it is to get into MMA today. There aren’t all of the barriers that we used to deal with to get a fight, get the training, or even get into a gym. I had to try out for AMC Pankration and I had already beaten 1 of their pros in my first fight ever! They said it was all well and good, but they wanted me to go through conditioning, training, and an interview. They judged me to see if I was worth their time to invest in. I was still paying a gym membership, too. I paid, I trained, and I was a fighter.
Stephie Daniels: I read an article where you said that back in Pride you fought for blood and honor. Compare MMA today to those glory days.
JB: I was talking about before Pride. I met a guy at AOL who was into MMA and we fought each other in the Judo room at the Washington Athletic Club. No refs or anything. If you fought at that time, it was because you were just driven with an overwhelming desire to test yourself and see what you were made of. Today, you can buy MMA gear at any generic sports equipment chain. You can find instructional and fight videos on YouTube, to learn from. It’s everywhere, now. We didn’t even have MMA gloves back then. We took fingerless Harbinger gloves and trimmed off some of the pads, took the bar out of the palm; and now we had an MMA glove.
Part of why I started fighting was to see the world. There wasn’t any money and I didn’t expect to get rich from it. I thought I would get out there and beat the living shit out of everybody and see the world, as my payment.
SD: What has been your key to having such successful longevity?
JB: I had great coaches who developed a well rounded skill-set in me. I also have a passion for learning to fight and training other people in fighting. I’m also not an insincere bullshit-spewing pawn who will say anything that people want to hear that are looking for the next big thing. I don’t give a shit about any of that. All I care about is being 100% true to who I am.
SD: If you could give your younger self advice, what would it be?
JB: Don’t compromise yourself for anyone or anything.
ES: How excited are you about seeing Shayna Baszler on TUF?
JB: I’m glad the whole world will get the chance to peer into the insane mind of South Dakota’s Baszler. All her quirky and weird stuff… If they leave the camera on her long enough for her to open up, it will do a whole lot of good for her and will be quite entertaining for fans. Hopefully, they give her playing cards so people can see her slight-of-hand magic tricks.
ES: Lastly, what comics are you currently reading?
JB: Cerebus the Aardvark. I think I’m on the 8th or 9th Cerebus graphic novel. It’s an amazing series. If you like intelligent, witty, thought provoking comics; start reading it!
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