Former UFC heavyweight champion Josh Barnett is getting ready to take on his former training partner and friend Jeff Monson on Sunday. World Victory Road will be staging its second event at Sengoku II in Tokyo.
Barnett recently explained his preparation for his fight with Monson. "Things are going pretty well," said the Babyface Assassin. "Here I am taking another fight. Not real close from the last one, as far as time goes, but it's pretty quickly. I'm feeling pretty good about it. I just pro wrestled recently. I'm in good shape. It's just right."
In WVR's first event, Sengoku, Barnett defeated Hidehiko Yoshida via heel hook. That fight was Barnett's first fight in more than a year, so he naturally had some criticism about his performance. "I know there were things I could have been sharper at. Some of that had to do with the availability of sparring partners and what kind of workouts I was getting in prior."
Most Americans prefer to fight in their native land; however, fighting in Japan does not bother Josh Barnett one bit. "I love working in Japan," he commented in a recent interview on MMAWeekly Radio. "For me, it's like being at home. It's no big deal for me to go out there."
One of the biggest reasons Barnett enjoys fighting in Japan is because of the differences in the rules as opposed to rules imposed in the United States. "You can't soccer kick, stomp or knee someone in America. They won't let you wear shoes anymore. If you want to go and fight under the more dynamic rule set, then you have to go out to Japan to get it done. I really like to have the freedom in the ring to do the techniques and kinds of things that are available to you as a martial artist."
Another aspect that Barnett likes is the automated process that the promoters create. "There are no problems backstage in Japan. It runs like clockwork. It's the epitome of how things should be done."
While he enjoys participating in Japan, Barnett was surprised a little at the opponent that was presented to him. Monson and Barnett are not only training partners, but also friends. When presented with the fight, he was a little hesitant at first.
"There was hesitation on my part for sure. I better let Jeff know what's getting thrown around here. I was like, 'hey, let me get a hold of him first.' What it came down to was no one would fight me and no one would fight Jeff," explained Barnett. "Jeff was already committed to the card. What it came down to is we're professionals and friendship aside, we have business to take care of."
Since Barnett has trained with Monson regularly, many people would wonder if his game plan might be affected. "I don't really bother to think about if they think they know what I'm going to do. As for Jeff, there is some advantage as far as knowing him from training. But we never fought. Fighting is fighting for me. I got reach and I'm more active on my feet. Being on your feet isn't really all that helpful if you are getting taken down and put on your back. It really comes down to control. If I can control the stand up and the ground, then I can be the one that dictates most of the fight. I'll go to the ground with Jeff. I have no problem with that."
Barnett, the MMAWeekly.com No. 4 ranked heavyweight, has been talked about for a few years now as a potential opponent for the No.1 ranked heavyweight, Fedor Emelianenko. Emelianenko currently has a fight lined up for Affliction's debut event against former UFC heavyweight champion Tim Sylvia. When asked about his thoughts on the fight, Barnett replied, "Fedor has got to keep his head moving, be explosive, be dynamic and once he puts him on his back, it's the end of that fight. I think that Fedor is too fast and mobile."
Barnett will also be featured on that same card in a rematch against Pedro Rizzo.
Another heavyweight that has received a lot of press is Kevin "Kimbo Slice" Ferguson. EliteXC has marketed the former street fighter heavily and has received some harsh criticism from some MMA fighters. Barnett, however, seems to be in the minority.
"I'm a fan. I like him. I think he's good for the sport. He trains hard. I think he's really taking the route to become a full on pro fighter. I don't think he's the type of guy you pick off of Felony Fights. This guy is big, powerful. It's clear that he's an athlete."
Barnett, though, is focused on fighting his friend, although he's not fighting the same guy he sees in the gym. "He's not Jeff from practice; he's Jeff in the fight."