Josh Barnett has officially confirmed that he is no longer an Ultimate Fighting Championship athlete.
MMAjunkie.com initially reported that Barnett had been released from his UFC contract last week. His departure comes on the heels of a debacle with USADA that saw him cleared of fault for a failed out-of-competition drug test on Dec 9, 2016. “The Warmaster” tested positive for the banned substance ostarine, but the fighter and his legal team were able to prove to an independent arbitrator that the result was due to a tainted supplement.
“No one thought I would ever be back in the UFC given the tumultuous relationship that we had had in the past, but for five fights and five years, that's precisely where I have been. I have very much enjoyed my time there,” Barnett wrote in a statement on his Facebook page. “The UFC has been a wonderful experience the second time around and together we have done great things. Although I am sure we could continue to do so, I feel that it's time for me to take another path. They have great fighters and the biggest platform in the world so why would I want to leave? The UFC has a structure in place to create their stories, their way, and it's a good way, but it's not my way – it's not my story.
“The call for adventure is still within me, and I wish to exercise it. I long to go back more to the way of the early days of MMA, traveling the world to exotic places fighting in different rules, rings or cages or who knows what, fighters that have been under the radar; the unknown. There are so many athletes and places that I want to fight, and by going my own way, I will have the ability to try and create that story and make these opportunities a reality, a reality I wouldn't have been able to make if I stayed in the UFC.”
Barnett admitted that the UFC’s handling of the USADA situation also played a role in his decision to leave. The 40-year-old Washington native has appeared in the Octagon since he submitted Andrei Arlovski in the third round of the UFC Fight Night 93 in September 2016.
“The debacle with USADA over the last year and a half has also influenced my decision to exit the UFC,” Barnett wrote. “Their dogged insistence to punish me for what they absolutely knew was an issue of contamination was unethical. By trying to manufacture any reason they could legitimize to increase sanctions against me was unacceptable. For their stance to necessitate my retaining counsel and do legal battle with them in the presence of an arbitrator was unnecessary. They preferred an adversarial to a just and fair process. I cannot in good conscience trust them to act in good faith or perhaps may even wish to look to enact some sort of vengeance in an attempt to cancel out my victory against them in arbitration. It's not the kind of environment that I want to spend the final years of my career in.”
Barnett has compiled a 35-8 record since beginning his professional tenure in 1997. He captured the UFC heavyweight crown with a victory over Randy Couture at UFC 36, but was stripped of the title after failing a drug test. His career also includes stints in promotions such as Pride, Strikeforce and Affliction. Barnett owns notable wins over the likes of Roy Nelson, Frank Mir, Sergei Kharitonov, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Pedro Rizzo, Dan Severn, Couture and Arlovski, to name a few.
“I would like to go beyond the bureaucracy by leaving the UFC. I hope I will be able to create the fights I want, compete in grappling, professional wrestling and take on opportunities as I can create and manage in the way that I wish to,” he wrote. “As a piece in the UFC puzzle, I would have had to work for their narrative and designs on their timeline – as one should expect. There are a lot of stories left to tell with my career, and I want to be the one to determine them without influence. To do that fully I need to go it alone, I have to be the architect of my destiny. To traversing battlefields far and wide. The UFC has been very good to me and a great place to fight, but what time I have left in this sport I need to be the one calling the shots and creating the battle plans. I hear the call for high adventure and I will oblige.”