Barnett Likely for Nov. 7 Sengoku Event

By Tony Loiseleur Aug 1, 2009
TOKYO -- While the next step for Fedor Emelianenko remains uncertain, the immediate future of Sengoku appears much clearer, as World Victory Road Director Takahiro Kokuho plans to enlist the services of Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva and Josh Barnett.

The two highly regarded heavyweights recently ran afoul of stateside athletic commissions, leaving their mixed martial arts careers in limbo.

Antonio Silva is currently scheduled for our Sept. 23 card, and as for Josh Barnett, we still have to continue negotiations with him, but we are planning to have him on our Nov. 7 card,” Kokuho said. “We didn’t have [Barnett] in contract, but we had a conversation with him about his return in November. He will be in Japan next week, so we’ll be speaking with him just before his Inoki Genome Federation appearance.”

Barnett, who was scheduled to meet Emelianenko at Affliction “Trilogy,” tested positive for performance enhancing drugs and was forced to withdraw from the match.

When asked about his thoughts regarding news of Barnett’s positive test and the subsequent scandal that followed, Kokuho expressed skepticism over the handling of the test samples by the California State Athletic Commission. Citing Kazuhiro Nakamura’s three-month suspension by the CSAC in September 2007 for a positive marijuana test, Kokuho said Nakamura’s protest and ensuing request to be retested using hair samples were denied. The encounter, according to Kokuho, left him wary of CSAC drug testing procedure.

However, Kokuho said he plans to subject Barnett to drug testing before his November appearance with the promotion.

“If Josh Barnett gets caught in our doping control tests, we absolutely must deal with it,” Kokuho said. “We will be testing through our commission, along with the Japan Anti-Doping Agency, as well as the World Anti-Doping Agency. We are using the same anti-doping control agency as the Olympics. If a fighter is caught doping in our event, since we are in cooperation with JADA and WADA, it is our responsibility to make sure these findings are dispatched from us to the world.”

For the many fans across North America who partake in the joy of live, late-night Japanese MMA on HDNet, the five-day delay of Sengoku’s “Ninth Battle” came as naturally disappointing news. Since Affliction “Trilogy” collapsed, nothing appears to be standing in the way of a live Sengoku broadcast. Despite Kokuho’s efforts to get Sengoku aired live in North America, it was not meant to be.

“It’s all about Affliction,” he said. “They had a contract with HDNet before us, and since Affliction was their first commitment, they naturally took priority over us. As soon as we heard that Affliction was canceled, however, we began trying to negotiate with them to make our event live.

However, it was already in the contract, and we couldn’t move our broadcast time. We don’t know what the particulars of their contract with Affliction were, but what we heard was that we just couldn’t do a live broadcast this time.”

The awkward airtime was not an obstacle for HDNet, according to Kokuho.

“We did talk with them about that,” he said. “Sunday night Japan time is apparently rough for them to air live, but that’s not the problem at all. They told us it would be great, however, if we could schedule fights on Saturday night, Japan time. That was just a suggestion, not the reason for the delay.”

Kokuho believes this tape delay was an exception and promises that future Sengoku events will air live on HDNet. He also affirmed his interest in former Affliction fighters and confirmed he made an offer for Emelianenko’s services.

“As far as we’re concerned, many of the fighters’ contracts have automatically moved to Zuffa, but Jorge Santiago still has a contract with us, as does [Takanori] Gomi, so there is a possibility that they will return to Japan to fight for us,” Kokuho said. “We have also been interested in Chris Horodecki and, of course, Fedor Emelianenko.”
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