Joshua Lawrence Barnett (born November 10, 1977) is an American mixed martial artist and professional wrestler who currently fights in the heavyweight division of Strikeforce. Barnett has been an accomplished fighter in mixed martial arts, winning the UFC Heavyweight Championship and King of Pancrase Openweight Championship. He was a finalist in the Pride 2006 Openweight Grand Prix and the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix Championship. As of December 2012, Barnett is ranked the #9 heavyweight fighter in the world by Sherdog.

Professional wrestling

After having his UFC HW title stripped due to testing positive for 3 banned substances, Josh Barnett began his overseas career as a professional wrestler in the New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) organization, where he wrestled numerous matches in 2003 and 2004. In his first match, he wrestled champion Yuji Nagata for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. Although unsuccessful in that match, Barnett formed a tag team with Perry Saturn and was undefeated in the following NJPW tour, Fighting Spirit 2003. Barnett wrestled over 50 matches in total for the NJPW promotion.

Since then, Barnett has been wrestling for Antonio Inoki’s Inoki Genome Federation wrestling promotion. He debuted with the company in 2007 with a victory over Tadao Yasuda. He racked up victories against Don Frye and Montanha Silva before suffering his first loss against Naoya Ogawa. The same man he beat earlier in the night. Since the loss, he has been on a winning streak beating The Predator, Hitokui Yoshiki, Tank Abbott, Jon Andersen, Fonseca, Atsushi Sawada, Bob Sapp, Ultimate Mask, Tim Sylvia, Montanha Silva, Bobby Lashley and Hideki Suzuki.

Starting in February at IGF GENOME 14, IGF began a title tournament to crown a new heavyweight champion and Barnett not only continued his winning streak but he advanced to the semi-finals of the tournament with his victory over Montanha Silva. In July at IGF GENOME 16, he defeated Bobby Lashley with a cross armbreaker to advance to the finals of the title tournament. Was scheduled to face Jérôme Le Banner for the IGF Heavyweight Championship in a tournament final scheduled for August 27 at the IGF SUPER STARS FESTIVAL 2011. However, it was announced on August 19 that Barnett had to pull out of the match up and Le Banner was declared the first ever IGF champion on August 22. However, Josh Barnett would get his shot at the IGF Heavyweight Championship on December 2 against the champion, Jerome Le Banner. Barnett would lose the contest by knockout.

On New Year’s Eve, Josh Barnett made his return to Japan for the DREAM, “Fight for Japan” event. At the event he would face Hideki Suzuki in an IGF Rules match. After a wrestling clinic was put on by both athletes, it was Barnett who won with a brainbuster to seal the victory.

Pancrase and Pride

Barnett competed in MMA fights in both Pride and Pancrase in Japan. While in Pancrase, he won its open-weight Grand Prix title by defeating Yuki Kondo. Winning this title put him alongside the likes of Ken Shamrock, Frank Shamrock and Bas Rutten as one of the few fighters to be a titleholder in both Pancrase and the UFC.

In his first fight in Pride, at Pride 28 against Croatian Mirko “Crocop” Filipović, he suffered a simultaneous fracture and dislocated shoulder injury that required surgery and over six months of rehab. His first fight back post-injury was a rematch against Mirko “Crocop” Filipović at Pride 30, which he lost by a close and controversial unanimous decision. He came back with a win againstKazuhiro Nakamura at Pride 31.

Barnett later beat Alexander Emelianenko by an americana submission in the second round of the Pride Open Weight Grand Prix atPride Total Elimination Absolute. He submitted Mark Hunt via kimura in the first round of the Open Weight Grand Prix at Pride Critical Countdown Absolute. Barnett defeated Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira by split decision in the semi finals of the Open Weight Grand Prix, however he lost the final match of the Pride Final Conflict Absolute to Filipović on September 10, 2006, submitting after an unintentional finger poke to the eye. In a post-fight interview, Barnett explained the incident: “I opened up my guard and I grabbed his leg to go for a leglock, and in the scramble Mirko put his hand out to post and he caught a finger deep in my right eye. And as soon as it happened I let go of the leg and grabbed my face, and I couldn’t see anything at the time and I had no idea where he was and I just didn’t want him to punt me in the face with a kick when I can’t see and I’m blinded. He said, you know, ‘Sorry’ and I said to him that he was winning that night and it was an accident. He didn’t mean [to do it]”. This also marked the third time he was beaten by the MMA legend.

Next, Barnett fought the Polish Judo gold medalist Pawel Nastula at Pride 32, the organization’s first show in the USA. To fight again in Nevada, the Nevada State Athletic Commission required that Barnett pass a mandatory drug test. In a surprisingly competitive match, Nastula controlled the first round and most of the second. Barnett reversed Nastula from the bottom and was able to secure a toe-hold submission, which earned him the victory. At a post fight press conference, Barnett complimented Nastula on his performance. Nastula, however, subsequently tested positive for steroids. Barnett then lost a rematch by unanimous decision to Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira at Pride Shockwave 2006.

World Victory Road: Sengoku

After the bout against Nogueira and the acquisition of Pride by the UFC, Barnett did not participate in any MMA events in 2007, except one Pancrase match against Hikaru Sato, which was held under catch wrestling rules on Dec. 22. Barnett did not follow many other Pride veterans to the UFC because he desired to join an organization that included the top heavyweight fighter in the world, Fedor Emelianenko. In 2008, Barnett joined the newly organized MMA promotion, Sengoku, and fought in consecutive main events at Sengoku 1 and Sengoku 2, submitting Hidehiko Yoshida with a heel hook in the third round, and defeating Jeff Monson by unanimous decision. These fights were notable in that Barnett became the first man to submit Yoshida in mixed martial arts competition; and Barnett and Monson are good friends.

Affliction Entertainment

Since his contract with World Victory Road is not exclusive, Barnett can join other MMA events. Barnett participated in the inaugural MMA event held by Affliction Entertainment, in July 2008. Seven years after his only knockout loss to Pedro Rizzo, he avenged that loss at Affliction: Banned with a knockout of his own in the second round.

In January 2009, Barnett fought Pride veteran Gilbert Yvel at Affliction: Day of Reckoning. Barnett defeated Yvel by a submission resulting from strikes in the third round. His next match-up, scheduled on August 1, 2009 against Fedor Emelianenko at Affliction’s 3rd event Affliction: Trilogy, was one of the most anticipated match-up between the then ranked No.1 heavyweight Emelianenko and No.2 heavyweight Barnett. However, the fight was officially pulled 10 days before the fight by the California State Athletic Commission after Barnett tested positive for anabolic steroids for a second time. (A metabolite of Drostanolone) The event and Affliction Entertainment itself was cancelled July 24, 2009 as a result. Barnett requested that they test his “B” sample hoping there was an error in the test. His “B” sample was positive.

Post-Affliction

Due to the positive drug tests, Barnett has made a re-licensure appeal to the California State Athletic Commission(CSAC). The CSAC has postponed Barnett’s appeal three times. The first two postponements happened because Barnett’s law firm required additional information from the laboratory that conducted Barnett’s tests. Michael J. DiMaggio, Barnett’s attorney, was unable to attend the hearing due to travel problems, causing the third extension, which would have taken place at 22 February 2010.

Josh was a no-show at this hearing on February 22, 2010, making this the fourth delay in his appeal, Shannon Hooper, Barnett’s manager, told MMAjunkie.com on Monday February 22, 2010 that Barnett was in Japan on Sunday February 21, 2010 for a pro wrestling match and will return to the U.S. later today. His reason was he was unaware that his presence was required, but the CSAC said they had notified him of this months before. Barnett more recently signed on with MMA organization Strikeforce.

Dream

Barnett signed to fight for Dream in 2010, and made his debut on March 22, 2010 at Dream 13 against Mighty Mo. He won the fight via submission in the first round. During the fight, he accidentally kicked Mighty Mo in the groin so immediately after winning the fight, Barnett approached Mighty Mo apologizing for the illegal strike and in return allowed Mighty Mo to knee him in the groin.

Strikeforce

On 13 September 2010 it was announced that Josh Barnett had signed a multi-fight deal with Strikeforce.

Barnett faced Brett Rogers on June 18, 2011 at Strikeforce: Dallas in the opening round of a Strikeforce heavyweight tournament. Barnett submitted Rogers with an arm triangle in the second round of the bout.

Barnett defeated Sergei Kharitonov in the semi-final of the tournament headlining Strikeforce: World Heavyweight Grand Prix – Barnett vs. Kharitonov on September 10, 2011 at U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati, Ohio.

He faced fellow finalist Daniel Cormier on May 19, 2012 at Strikeforce: Barnett vs. Cormier to determine the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix Champion. Dana Whiteannounced if Barnett were to defeat Cormier, he would be allowed back into the UFC, “If he wins the fight, I can’t see why he wouldn’t come [to the UFC].” Barnett lost the bout via unanimous decision. (50-45, 50-45, 49-46), losing for the first time in over 5 years. He has one bout left on his Strikeforce contract. On November 29, 2012 it was announced that he will face a promotional newcomer Nandor Guelmino at the final Strikeforce event in January 2013.

Other features

Barnett has appeared in the Xbox 360 game Beautiful Katamari as one of the people that can be rolled up. He appears as the rare person “Wrestler” in his signature trunks and Pride FC gloves.

Billy Robinson had contributed immensely in training Josh Barnett. Barnett teaches catch wrestling at Erik Paulson’s CSW Training Center in Fullerton, California. He is the primary trainer and manager of female fighter Megumi Fujii and listed on the Abe Ani Combat Club’s website as a team wrestling coach and friend.

Barnett competed in the California Classic 2009 BJJ Tournament on November 15, 2009. Barnett lost a decision to ADCC veteran and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu World Champion Romulo Barral from Gracie Barra in the Black Belt GI Absolute division. On December 19, 2009, Paulson awarded Barnett his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt. Even though Barnett had never trained in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu he was given his belt based on competition merit and overall knowledge.

Championships and accomplishments

Mixed martial arts

  • Strikeforce
    • 2011 Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix Runner-up
  • Ultimate Fighting Championship
    • UFC Heavyweight Championship (One time)
  • Pancrase Hybrid Wrestling
    • Pancrase Openweight Championship (One time; Last)
  • Pride Fighting Championship
    • 2006 Pride Openweight Grand Prix Runner-up

Submission grappling

  • International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation
    • 2009 World No Gi Jiu-Jitsu Championship Black Belt Gold Medalist
  • International Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Federation
    • Gracie US Nationals 2010 – 206+ lb / Advanced No-Gi: 1st place