This weekend will witness yet another potential slugfest, as the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to Japan. ‘Big Country’ Roy Nelson would look to put his demons to rest, and notch up a much needed victory, but his opponent, ‘The Warmaster’, Josh Barnett has his own score to settle. Josh has been away from the Octagon for nearly two years, and he would want to make amends for his previous outing against Travis Browne at UFC 168, when ‘Hapa’ dropped Barnett in the very first round, and in the very first minute.
Nelson is coming off of consecutive losses, winning just one of his previous 5 fights, while Barnett has been away from the Octagon for almost 2 years. Before the fight, Nelson decided to take the first shot at Barnett, when he brought up Barnett’s history with PEDs over social media. Josh retaliated by calling Nelson ‘a toddler with a butter knife’, but the time for talk is over, as the two heavyweights clash inside the cage at the Saitama Arena.
Before the fight, I managed to catch up with Barnett, as we discussed a wide range of topics. Barnett also expressed his admiration for the traditional form of wrestling in India.
Barnett’s road to redemption
Josh was also vocal about how he felt regarding his last fight, where he lost to Browne in the first round. Going into the fight, Josh spoke about how he felt, and how the training camp came along, saying, “I feel fantastic, and I feel really great. I mean, I think this is a fantastic opportunity for me to be able to erase the memories of the last match. The camp has been great; I stayed a bit at the Naval Academy with Joel Sharatt (head coach), and I think it went really well. I think we’ll know once I get back in the Octagon.”
When asked about his game plan for his upcoming fight against Nelson, who has been on a bit of a losing streak (Nelson lost 4 of his previous 5 fights), Barnett said, “My game plan? You’ll see it in the ring (laughs). I don’t really want to give too much away, but I’m pretty comfortable fighting Roy anywhere being honest. I think if you’re not comfortable engaging opponent in whatever aspect of MMA you’re engaged in, then you should find another sport. You got to be well rounded, you got to be willing to go wherever necessary and be successful there.”
Talking about his grappling skills, and mixed with his stand up game, we asked Barnett about what his chances would be against someone like Fabricio Werdum. “I don’t mind my chances in beating Werdum at all”, Barnett quipped. “I know I can… I will definitely match him on the ground in terms of grappling, and I think I’m just a meaner, more tenacious guy than he is. So in the end, that fight favors me. But he has to be incredibly confident right now with his string of wins, and anybody who faces Werdum at this point will get the absolute best out of him.”
His interest in acting in Bollywood
Lastly, Barnett joked about not knowing about his fanbase in India, and expressed his interest in acting in a Bollywood film. “You know, I don’t really know how many fans I necessarily have in India, but I’m very grateful for all of them, and I hope that they enjoy what they watch this Sunday night. Few of my fighters hold the Super Fight League – America belt; I don’t know about the MMA scene in India, but if I have to go to India, it has to be Bollywood.”
Barnett’s greatest desire
Barnett then talked briefly about India’s traditional form of wrestling, and expressed his admiration for the art. “My greatest desire actually, would be to interact with and introduce the “kushti” community, and make them more interested in MMA, because kushti or pehlwani – whatever you want to call it, the Indian wrestling and fighting culture is incredibly old, and produced some of the greatest fighters of all time – The Great Gama and the likes. With these guys, India has a history, but you need to remember it. There is a decent amount of Indian wrestlers in the world in Greco – freestyle, and kushti still produces really strong athletes. It could really put India on the world map; I think sometimes MMA has the wrong idea, with them going with jiu jistu and other things, and they’re trying to convert everybody into something else.
The reality is, the rules of kushti in Indian wrestling has everything that they already need. It’s only a matter of introduction to competition of different styles and themes; they don’t need to be anything other than what they already are, and that idea has to change.”
UFC Fight Night – Barnett vs. Nelson will be telecasted at 7:30 AM IST on the 27th of September, live from the Saitama Arena, Japan.