Josh Barnett returned to the UFC with a bang. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Josh Barnett’s return to the UFC last Saturday was a successful one, but it wasn’t without controversy.
The former UFC heavyweight champion stopped another former champ in Frank Mir just 1:56 into the opening round. It was a knee to the head that floored Mir and compelled referee Rob Hinds to intervene, but as soon as the fight was halted, Mir protested the ref’s decision.
“I knew that he was right on the edge of being finished even up to 20 seconds before that,” Barnett told the Sherdog Radio Network’s “Beatdown” show.
Prior to the knee, Barnett had Mir trapped against the cage and was landing with uppercuts.
“I could feel it really coming on,” he said. “I could smell blood. As soon as I hit him with that knee and he just hit the floor, the boost was kicking in. I was just kind of going to absolute rampage all over him, and there was no way he was getting through that.”
In Barnett’s view, the referee stepped in at the very first opportunity, and it was for Mir’s own good.
“It was only controversial because Hinds stepped in right at the moment, right at the first absolute point he could come in there … to keep [Mir] from really getting hurt bad,” Barnett said. “Frank jumped up and made a huge stink about it, and that’s where the boos came from.”
At the post-fight news conference Mir stuck by his view that it was a bad stoppage. He said the ref’s intervention had “screwed” him and the fans, but at this point Barnett feels like the one being shorted.
“It does cheapen the win to some degree, but also what makes it difficult is that he gets up and says what he wants to say and I can’t just slug him and knock him out again,” Barnett explained. “The problem with that is, the repercussions would be bad. I told him, I go, ‘Well, I understand why you’re upset and I’d be mad if I felt it was stopped early too.’ … There was a little understanding on my part, but I was also visibly -- I was incredibly upset myself because I felt like I got robbed of the moment. I did all this training. We get in the ring. We’re not there to be friends. I put this man on his face, and all of a sudden all that time spent getting up to this point, I feel like that’s my time. I get to cash in for all the sacrifices I’ve put in … and I get denied.”
Barnett still gets the win, though, and it should position him nicely in the UFC’s heavyweight division.
“I’m right in the title contention no matter where I’m at,” Barnett said. “Everybody knows that I can carry the gold.”
Listen to the full interview (beginning at 1:07:19).