5 Defining Moments: Josh Barnett

Widely considered to be one of the greatest heavyweight practitioners of all time, Josh Barnett will take on KSW champion Philip De Fries in a 10-minute grappling bout at KSW Epic this Saturday at PreZero Arena in Gliwice, Poland.

Renowned for his elite grappling, Barnett is a former International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation world no-gi gold medalist, with wins over the likes of Dean Lister and Ryron Gracie. Barnett also secured the super-heavyweight Catch Wrestling World Championship held in England in 2018. Despite all his achievements in other forms of martial arts, his mixed martial arts career is what makes him stand out as a legend and pioneer of the sport.

As the 46-year-old Barnett gets ready to compete, let us look at five of the many moments that have come to define him:

1. Perfect Start

Barnett made his professional MMA debut at the age of 19 under the United Full Contact Federation banner on Jan. 11, 1997, in Washington, where he faced Chris Charnos. Despite having taken the bout on just two weeks’ notice, Barnett walked away with a submission win in less than three minutes. Following a memorable debut, the Washington native went on to put up nine more wins with seven first-round finishes. Considering his impressive record, Barnett signed with the Ultimate Fighting Championship and made a successful debut at UFC 28 on Nov. 17, 2000, securing a Round 2 technical knockout victory over Gan McGee.

2. Breaking Ground

After suffering his first professional loss in his sophomore UFC outing, Barnett returned to winning ways with back-to-back finishes to earn himself a shot a heavyweight champion Randy Couture at UFC 36. While Couture managed to stifle the youngster’s offense in the opening frame with his wrestling, the second round saw the tide turn. The champion found himself on the bottom three minutes into the second round after attempting to move to side control. Barnett immediately unleashed an onslaught of ground-and-pound strikes on his adversary, forcing referee John McCarthy to stop the fight with only 25 seconds remaining. Barnett, the youngest champion in UFC history at the time, would later be stripped of his title following a second positive drug test. “The Warmaster” then parted ways with the promotion, only to return 11 years later.

3. King Among Kings

Following a failed drug test that stripped him of his UFC title, Barnett made his way to Japan, where “The Warmaster” found himself competing for the openweight title on Pancrase’s 10th anniversary show in August 2003. Going up against Japan’s Yuki Kondo inside the ring, Barnett put on a dominant showing with his heavy-handed striking and grappling acumen. After outclassing his opponent with his clinch work and ground-and-pound for the first two rounds, the American successfully submitted “Sora” with a rear-naked choke at the 2:36 mark of Round 3 to earn the Pancrase openweight championship. The achievement saw him added to a short list of fighters to have held titles in both Pancrase and the UFC, such as Ken Shamrock and Bas Rutten.

4. A Matter of Pride

Recognized as one of the top competitors in the sport at the time, Barnett reached the finals of Pride Fighting Championships’ openweight grand prix tournament in 2006, recording victories against the likes of Mark Hunt, Aleksander Emelianenko and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. However, “The Warmaster” failed to secure the victory in the final against Mirko Filipovic, succumbing to a Round 1 TKO loss. Despite the defeat, Barnett’s exploits on the Japanese circuit remain a sight to behold.

5. Back Home

Barnett returned to the American circuit on the heels of a six-fight winning streak when he took on Brett Rogers under the Strikeforce banner in June 2011. The Washington native went on to compile a 3-1 record in the promotion, only losing to future UFC hall of famer Daniel Cormier. Following an impressive run in Strikeforce, “The Warmaster” made his way back to the UFC in 2013 and ultimately recorded three more impressive victories against Frank Mir, Roy Nelson and Andrei Arlovski.

Subscribe to our Newsletter

* indicates required
Latest News


Does your anticipation level for UFC 303 match or exceed that of UFC 300?



Johan Ghazali