The talk of the mixed martial arts world for the past 24 hours has been Tuesday's bombshell that Josh Barnett allegedly tested positive for a banned substance in a drug test administered by the California State Athletic Commission. He was due to face Fedor Emelianenko at Affliction "Trilogy" on Aug. 1, but has been denied the reinstatement of his license due to the test result.
There appeared to be a sliver of hope for the No. 2 ranked heavyweight in the world, who plans to appeal the denial of his licensure.
"We're currently going through the process with the commission and we'll know more in the next 2 to 3 days," his manager, Shannon Hooper, told MMAWeekly.com on Wednesday.
Atencio was fully aware of Barnett's actions, saying, "The California Athletic Commission has taken two samples and it is my understanding that they are in the process of checking the second sample.
"It's my understanding that there's a great possibility that they'll reinstate his license and let him move forward if he's cleared, but that is absolutely in the hands of the California State Athletic Commission."
But Barnett's challenge and Atencio's assertions that the fight was still an outside possibility appear to be futile.
Those possibilities evaporated on Wednesday afternoon when MMAWeekly.com contacted CSAC Assistant Executive Officer Bill Douglas. When asked if there was a chance that Barnett could be reinstated in time for the Aug. 1 bout with Fedor if his second sample came back clean, Douglas replied via email, "The license has been denied."
The CSAC then issued a public statement saying, "Barnett's June 25 drug test came back positive for 2a-methyl-5a-androstan-3a-ol-17-one, an anabolic steroid. CSAC learned of the results July 21 and immediately denied a license for Barnett. CSAC also informed the promoter of Barnett's Aug.1 bout against Fedor Emelianenko that the bout would not be approved."
Given that development, Atencio's approach to first learning of the denial on Tuesday has been appropriate.
"I'm definitely moving ahead. I have to move ahead," he said early Wednesday afternoon.
Atencio said he is in discussions with three specific fighters, but he's not naming names.
Most sources indicate that Vitor Belfort, Bobby Lashley, and Brett Rogers, are leaders among speculation. The Fight Network has even reported that Xtreme Couture and Belfort coach Shawn Tompkins confirmed that Belfort had actually signed a contract to fight Fedor.
Atencio on Wednesday denied that anyone was finalized yet, discounting all the speculation.
"I have got three people I am speaking with, but until I have a contract finalized and it' done, I'm just not going to say anything," he said. Specifically addressing Belfort, he added, "Until you hear it from me, until I have a contract signed, they're all rumors. Until you absolutely hear it from my voice, from me, it's not finalized."
The only thing that does appear to be finalized at this point is that Josh Barnett will not be stepping into the ring to fight the No. 1 ranked heavyweight fighter in the world, Fedor Emelianenko, on Aug. 1.