According to USA Today, Barnett has signed a new multi-fight deal with the UFC and will be fighting in the Octagon later this year. An official announcement from the promotion is expected within the next couple of days.
Barnett is best known for his powerful wrestling, charismatic persona and unfortunately, a career marred by failed drug tests. "The Warmaster" has a career record of 32-6 (4-1 in the UFC), but has not fought inside the Octagon since 2002 when he beat Randy Couture for the UFC Heavyweight Championship. Barnett was later stripped of the title for testing positive for multiple banned substances.
The 35-year-old didn't let the mishap from the UFC detour his fighting aspirations. Barnett went on to a successful Pancrase and Pride career before showcasing his skills more recently in Strikeforce.
While fans have been clamoring for Barnett to get back with the UFC for quite some time, things didn't look so good based on what White had to say in this 2010 interview with Ariel Helwani of MMA Fighting (emphasis mine):
All of us are going to make mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes. It's how you deal with those mistakes. You take a guy like Josh Barnett. This guy's tested positive three times and denies every time that he's taken steroids, okay? He comes out with an interview last week basically saying, 'I don't care about anybody else; the only person I care about is myself. I got some fans out there and thanks for following me or whatever, but I'm not fighting for you. I'm fighting for me and I'm doing everything for me.' This is a guy who single-handedly put a company out of business -- single-handedly put a company out of business for doing what he was doing and has zero remorse for it. Couldn't care less. Those are the guys that I have zero tolerance for. And that's why he's not in the UFC and never will be.
Gradually over the last few years since White made these comments, it became evident that there was at least a window of opportunity for Barnett to come back. Now that a multi-fight deal has been made with the former "Baby-Faced Assassin," UFC fans will see exactly how he stacks up with the best heavyweights the world has to offer.
Fight fans have been clamoring for a Barnett vs. Frank Mir matchup for quite some time and now that opportunity appears to be as close to happening as it ever has been.
Although a Barnett vs. Mir fight may top the list of most, our own Jeremy Botter believes it should be Alistair Overeem who is the first to take on Barnett inside the Octagon.
The first opponent for Barnett may be an afterthought for fans. They are just happy to see him back in the UFC and know that he is immediately in the heavyweight title picture.
It almost feels as if the missing piece of a puzzle has been found and inserted back into the heavyweight division.