“Plain and simple, I’m the best fighter in this tournament. I’ve got the most experience. … I’ve been fighting longer. I’ve been in the sport longer. I’ve fought all the top guys, and the fact that some of these guys in the tournament are the top guys now, well, they weren’t the top guys when I was fighting. A lot of the top guys I fought were the top guys for years, some near a decade. Just because you got into the upper echelon just now — we’ll see how it turns out later on in life. I’ve got the biggest skill set and I think I’ve got the best overall, all-around ability and I’m just the meanest, angriest, most bloodthirsty bastard out of them all.”
— Josh Barnett telling Sherdog he’s the best fighter in the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix
Josh Barnett definitely isn’t short on confidence, is he? I don’t think there’s any question that Barnett is one of the most talented fighters in the tournament and he certainly has the experience, but Barnett hasn’t fought a top tier heavyweight since he lost to Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira four and half years ago. He has enough tricks up his sleeve to get past Brett Rogers I think, but then he’ll be looking at a fight against a heavy-handed and experienced Sergei Kharitonov and a finals bout against Alistair Overeem, Fabricio Werdum or Antonio Silva. Barnett says he wants to fight Overeem — he wants to fight the guy everyone thinks is “unbeatable” — but all three of those potential opponents have the tools to give him major problems in the finals if he makes that far.
Another thing to consider is all the “top guys” Barnett fought earlier in his career are not the “top guys” anymore. Most notably, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Mirko Cro Cop (who Barnett lost to three times) and Randy Couture have all fallen from their pedestals in recent years. Barnett never fought him, but even the top dog from that era, Fedor Emelianenko, is struggling to find success in this new age of heavyweights. We have no way of knowing if the same goes for Barnett since he hasn’t fought top competition in a long time, but we’re definitely going to find out over the next eight months.
On a humorous side note, Affliction’s Tom Atencio, whose MMA promotion collapsed when Barnett failed his third drug test, matter-of-factly states in this predictions video with Randy Couture that he would “love to see Brett knock Josh out.” I’m guessing he’s not the only one.
Update: No need to worry about any last-minute licensing problems with the Texas commission. MMA Junkie has confirmed that Josh Barnett has been licensed to fight this weekend.
“He has met all the requirements,” Susan Stanford, the Public Information Officer for the TDLR, today told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com). “So he’s ready to go.”