As a writer who has made a career out of doing interviews and features, I have come to learn that timing means everything. When fighters are locked in the repetitive media grind of fight week or in the middle of cutting weight, there are times when getting through a basic pre-fight interview can be a grueling affair for both parties involved.
Unfortunately, with the hectic schedule of recent years, sometimes those chaotic, fading moments surrounding fight week are the only windows of opportunity to get the quotes you need for a story.
Before the interview ever takes place, you know the fighter you are about to speak with has been asked a variation of the same 10 questions over and over and is heading into your phone call dreading to hear those questions asked one more time save for a different voice on the line.
As writers, we understand the reality of this situation, but the pre-fight interview is a necessary evil. That being said, it's always nice to shake things up now and again.
The hope is that the subject of the interview will find this unique batch of questions as a breath of fresh air and have a bit of fun in the process.
When it comes to taking things off the beaten path, there may be perhaps no subject better suited for several minutes in the obscure than Josh Barnett.
The former UFC heavyweight champion is a lover of all things metal and has slick, silver-tongued mic skills when he's working the promotional realm. Inside the cage, "The Warmaster" is one of MMA's most storied submission artists and has left a path of destruction in his wake over the course of his 16-year career.
Yet one of the most compelling chapters of the 35-year-old's journey is set to begin when he makes his long-awaited return to the Octagon at UFC 164. It has been over 11 years since the savvy veteran last waged war inside the Octagon, and in one of the rare "dream matchups" he will lock up with fellow former champion and submission ace Frank Mir next Saturday night in Milwaukee.
With his co-main event tilt drawing ample attention, the chance to give Barnett a break from the typical media grind seemed to be a suitable option.
This is what transpired.
You are a man of action and have proven this time and time again throughout your career. I want to start things off talking about the Bronson/McQueen factor. Charles Bronson and Steve McQueen are both legendary action-flick badasses, and if you had to pick your favorite of the two, with whom would you side?
"Oh that's tough because they both played great movie tough guys, but they were very different characters. Charles Bronson ran around in Death Wish III with a .475 Wildey Magnum, which is a pretty awesome handgun. It's all stainless steel and gas-operated, but I'm going with McQueen because as much as I love all of Charles Bronson's movies, Bullitt was probably better than all of them combined. Steve McQueen was a big-time racing aficionado, and I think he scored a lot more poontang than Charles Bronson."
Being formerly known as the "Baby-Faced Assassin" and returning to the UFC heavyweight division, do you feel as soon as you signed on the dotted the line that the handsome factor went up exponentially?
"I do, but not only in the handsomeness department but in manliness as well. With this beard of mine, I think everything took a giant leap into the realm of heroic levels of manliness."
I've had the pleasure of witnessing your dance skills firsthand when you battled Daniel Cormier at the Fight! Magazine party in Columbus back in March of 2012. I know you are a busy man, but have you had a chance to expand your already dangerous dancing repertoire?
"Some of it is actually off the fly, man. You just have to feel the music and let it move you. I haven't put a lot of time into dancing with this fight specifically, at least not as much as other fights. But if a beat hits the arena, the feet just have to go. You can't hold that kind of rhythm and power that is deep within your soul. You can't hold it in or you might get an aneurysm."
In this fight with Mir, we media types and fans of the sport are looking at this as a matchup of the two premier submission artists in the sport's history. Do you see it that way, or is there another fighter outside of yourself and Mir who is possibly the greatest of all-time?
"The G.O.A.T. of heavyweight submission guys...yeah, I guess you can say that. I know I had [Antonio Rodrigo] Nogueira caught and he wasn't going anywhere, and [Mir] broke Nogueira's arm. He would probably be the only other guy you could look at as being the heavyweight submission G.O.A.T. I just hope someone has at least made us a little belt in addition to whatever purse we get for this fight. Even if it was made of just tin foil, I'll take it."
The city you are about to fight in is as blue-collar as they come. I know you are a California guy but your fighting style is very in-your-face; you get in there and get to it. Milwaukee is an industrial city. What is like being able to bring your game there?
"Well, I think it's a benefit for them if they get the opportunity to hang out and watch me. That's what it is. Any city in this great world of ours would be blessed to have me step foot into it."
I know you enjoy a good epic. Do you believe your return to the UFC draws any parallels to Odysseus returning to Ithaca at the conclusion of the Odyssey? Minus the beggar part of course.
"Yeah, well I am going to have to fight a Cyclops to get in there. If any of you are unfamiliar with the story, at least you can download the song "The Odyssey" by Symphony X. That will get you caught up. But just like Odysseus, I'm hoping there are plenty of Sirens out there trying to lure my crotch to its doom afterwards."
Well played Mr. Barnett. Well played indeed.
Duane Finley is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotes are obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise.
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