Josh Barnett has not fought in the UFC since December 2013. | Taro Irei/Sherdog.com
Josh Barnett and Roy Nelson will square off in a heavyweight headliner when the UFC heads to Japan for a Fight Night event in September.
The matchup was announced by the Las Vegas-based promotion late Wednesday night. The event will take place at Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan, and will air on Sept. 26 in the United States.
Prior to their bout, Barnett and Nelson will serve as coaches for a reality series entitled “Road to the UFC: Japan,” where eight Japanese fighters will vie for the opportunity to win a UFC contract. Similar to “The Ultimate Fighter” format, the eight contestants will train under Nelson and Barnett at the “TUF” Gym in Las Vegas and compete in elimination fights on a weekly basis. The show’s finalists will meet at the UFC Fight Night event in September.
“Road to UFC: Japan” will be broadcast in Japan beginning in July and will air on a weekly basis through September, according to a release.
“We are very happy to be bringing our live event to the Saitama Super Arena once again this year,” said Executive Vice President and General Manager of UFC Asia Ken Berger. “There is a rich and diverse MMA talent in Japan and we’re positive that through ‘Road to UFC: Japan,’ we will uncover more UFC prospects.” Barnett, 37, has not fought in the Octagon since Dec. 26, 2013, when he suffered a first-round knockout loss to Travis Browne at UFC 168. “The Warmaster” was last seen competing in a grappling match against Ryron Gracie at Metamoris 6, where he submitted his opponent with a toe hold in the evening’s headliner.
Nelson enters the bout on a two-fight skid after dropping back-to-back bouts against Mark Hunt and Alistair Overeem. The 38-year-old known as “Big Country” last tasted victory in April 2014, knocking out Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira at a UFC Fight Night event in Dubai.