Josh Barnett was rocked early in the opening round against Andrei Arlovski in the main event of UFC Fight Night “Arlovski vs. Barnett” (online betting) in Hamburg, Germany, on Saturday, but the former Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight champion’s resilience paid off.
Arlovski clipped “The Warmaster” with a sizzling right hand to the head, but Barnett answered with one of his own, only to get rubber-legged seconds later by another missile from the Belarusian. Barnett eventually wore Arlovski down and submitted him with a rear-naked choke in the third, but he claims he was never actually hurt in the battle.
“I was never hurt in the fight,” he said at the post-fight press conference. “That’s more due to having either an abnormally thick skull or very little brain matter. I’ve taken the best shots from the best strikers.”
Arlovski, also a former heavyweight champ, couldn’t put his foe away and eventually paid the price. His gas tank was depleted by Barnett’s aggressive catch wrestling gameplan and once Barnett had the ultimate advantage, he sealed the deal with a textbook rear-naked choke. But Barnett said he had to be careful in the fight, even when in a dominant position, because of how dangerous “The Pitbull” is.
“Andrei comes out wild, like a savage,” he explained. “He was throwing right hand after hand and throwing just one punch. I was being pulled into a wild exchange. I didn’t think he would try for a takedown but when he did it was like I was watching him do it. As the fight went on, he was feeling more fatigued. I didn’t want to overly commit and open myself up to something really nasty.”
Barnett came into the fight ranked No. 9 by the UFC in the heavyweight division and with Arlovski coming in at No. 6, the logical assumption is that another win or two will put him in the thick of things in terms of a title shot. Barnett didn’t outwardly acknowledge that that is on his mind but he said that at this stage in his career, the 38-year-old is ready for anything and anybody should the opportunity present itself.
“Guys like me or Andrei, we’ve already won belts,” he stated. “There’s a slew of guys in the heavyweight division who are capable of being champions. We are always ready to step in and take the fight. I think a heavyweight championship fight could be in the future. If (Alistair) Overeem gets hurt or something, I’ll be ready to fill in for him.”
Barnett’s legacy has been cemented for years but with everything that he’s accomplished, being able to regain the heavyweight title – a belt he never lost in the Octagon – would allow him to come full circle. Time will tell if he still has enough left to accomplish that.