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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

No Holds Barred: Josh Barnett 

On this edition of No Holds Barred, host Eddie Goldman speaks with mixed martial arts heavyweight fighter Josh Barnett.

He will be competing in the Strikeforce World Grand Prix Heavyweight Tournament in a quarterfinal fight against Brett Rogers at a date and location to be announced.

Barnett is the most controversial fighter in this tournament, since he currently is not licensed to fight in North America. He tested positive for an anabolic steroid prior to a planned August 2009 fight with Fedor Emelianenko, and was thus denied a license by the California State Athletic Commission. This was his second official positive drug test, plus one test run of drug-testing in 2001. (Barnett denies ever taking steroids.) He next fought in Japan and Australia in 2010, where the requirements and standards for allowing fighters to compete are lower than in North America. But he is still regarded as one of the top heavyweights in the world.

He also has been playing cat-and-mouse with the California commission at several hearings which were supposed to have addressed his status. His case is still unresolved following the failure of both him and his legal representation to show up at these hearings at the same time.

Yet there are indications that other commissions may indeed grant him a license if he tests clean in whatever drug-testing they or Strikeforce may conduct. He would then be legally entitled to fight in those jurisdictions.

While Barnett may be able to take advantage of the weak drug-testing by these athletic commissions and lack of any central authority in the combat sport to conduct such drug-testing, his playing the system once again highlights the need for the adoption of the protocols of the World Anti-Doping Agency in the combat sports and by all these athletic commissions. But it also would be wrong to focus mainly on the shortcomings of this one fighter, since it is the very flawed system which is in place which has allowed this situation to exist.

In light of all this, we spoke with Josh Barnett on January 10 when he was in New York for a Showtime and Strikeforce photo and promo shoot. We did ask him about his license situation, but mainly focused on his upcoming fight and related issues. We discussed the importance of this tournament, his fight with Brett Rogers, the issues of the role of grappling and striking in mixed martial arts, and his coaching of fighter Megumi Fujii and her recent loss to Zoila Frausto. We also focused on the role of catch wrestling, its future as a sport and discipline, why a wrestling base is so important for competing in mixed martial arts, why catch wrestling is so important as well, and more.

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