When Brock Lesnar’s return to the UFC was announced at UFC 199, a number of fighters immediately started lobbying to get the fight. One such name was Josh Barnett, and in an interview with Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour this week he expanded on why he wanted the bout and why he thinks we won’t see anything new from Lesnar at UFC 200.
“I wanted it because he’s a professional wrestler and so I am,” Barnett said. “I wanted it because after five fights, they tried to say he was the No. 1 heavyweight in the world, which I thought was insulting to all of us. Not that he wasn’t talented, not that he didn’t have the potential to be far better than he ever was able to really show out there with such a young career, but it just felt like utter and absolute propaganda, and it was upsetting that there were media outlets that were supposed to be top of the pops that bought it.
“And then there’s also the fact that he had an open invitation to come to CSW and train with us all the time in between fights and to prepare and grow as a fighter and never took us up on it. [He] never came out, never seemed to take the time in between his fights to become a much better fighter. And I felt like, ‘Well, that was part of the reason his last couple fights went the way they did.’
“I don’t know what he’s done from then until now, but being out of it as long as he has, I don’t think he’s going to be stepping into the cage a better fighter than he was when he left.”
Barnett returns in September in the main event of the UFC Fight Night card in Hamburg, Germany, taking on fellow former UFC Heavyweight Champion Andrei Arlovski. Lesnar meets Mark Hunt at UFC 200 on July 9.
Penick’s Analysis: Barnett-Lesnar would have been highly interesting as a battle of two accomplished wrestlers with pro wrestling ties, but with Barnett already scheduled for the Arlovski fight it made sense the UFC went a different direction. Barnett and lots of other veterans have never been happy about Lesnar’s ascendance and the way he was lauded by many in his early UFC run prior to the Cain Velasquez fight, and that’s absolutely reasonable given how little experience Lesnar had at the time. I don’t know how much Lesnar’s fights with Velasquez and Alistair Overeem were affected by a general inability to improve or his battle with diverticulitis, but Lesnar believes it to be the latter, and that’s why he expects to be better than before. We’re sure to find out on July 9.
[Photo (c) Jayne Kamin-Oncea via USA Today Sports]
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