Barnett on His Fighters, His Future
One of the most vocal and active proponents of female MMA, Josh Barnett (Pictures) appeared more than pleased at his
stable's showing at last Friday's Smackgirl tournament in Tokyo. He
spoke with Sherdog.com after the event and elaborated on the
performances of his affectionately labeled "Angels of
"I think they all did great. Akano was one that I wasn't able to
work with for several months beforehand, so she was working much
too hard to get that win," said Barnett of Hitomi Akano (Pictures), who had armbarred open-weight
champ Hiroko at the event. "With a better strategy, she'd have won
that fight much easier.
"Not that I think Hiroko isn't tough, but Akano has such a good
submission game and judo background. I think she should have been
able to push forward, take her down and submit her much quicker
than she did. Still, I don't think the fans will complain, since it
made for a very dramatic finish."
With her win over the imposingly large Hiroko, Akano advanced to
the Smackgirl open-weight tournament final to face another Barnett
product, Ginele Marquez
(Pictures), who defeated Atsuko Emoto (Pictures) by unanimous decision the same
"Ginele also did very well," Barnett said. "She wasn't in as good
of shape as I'd have liked for her to have been, but it was a good
start. One thing she was able to show was that it's going to be
hard for anyone to manhandle her around the ring.
"Emoto is known for being, at the very least, very powerful, but
Ginele just picked her up, flung her around and suplexed her. It's
good to get this fight out of the way so she can concentrate on
Akano next because Akano is very, very tough. I think with both of
them meeting each other in the finals, it's going to be a good
representation of world-class talent."
"The Babyface Assassin" also discussed long-time student Megumi Fujii (Pictures) and her win in a 115-pound
"She defeated Seo Hee Ham
(Pictures) in the first round, by
armbar, which is a first. [Smackgirl's] champion Yuka Tsuji (Pictures) couldn't put her away, and it
took Miku Matsumoto
(Pictures) at least until the second
round to get a choke," Barnett explained. "Megumi took her out by
armbar on her first takedown, and that was it.
"You know, I always say it: Megumi is clearly the best Japanese
fighter, male or female. In my opinion, she could be the very best
fighter, male or female, in the world. If she fought men in equal
scenarios -- let's say if she was 170 pounds and had to fight St.
Pierre, I'd put my money on her."
As bold a statement as that may sound to most MMA fans, it is
nothing new with Barnett. Although his progressive beliefs are
often cited, the reasoning behind them has perhaps been
overshadowed by the achievements of his fighters.
"You know, I've always been the kind of guy who doesn't like to do
what everyone else does," he said. "But one thing that really
played into all this was that from the beginning, when women
started wrestling in high school, I wasn't against it at all.
"I had two female wrestlers on my wrestling team, and it wasn't
about, ‘Oh, there are chicks here now.' It was about these persons
wanting to wrestle just as bad as anyone else. There's no reason to
stop them or limit them from developing skills and technique just
like anyone else. There's just no reason they should be overlooked.
Women athletes are some of the best athletes in the world.
"Sometimes I prefer to coach women more because I don't get any ego
from them, and they work hard. I'm not sure if it's because they
believe that they have to because they normally wouldn't get the
opportunity, and so they think they should make the best they can
of the chance, but either way, it's in their nature and it's
"Plus, they smell a lot better too," added Barnett with a
thoughtful smile. "I don't think that helping women athletes is
charity work, but what I do think is that they're serious athletes
like anyone else. And when I see someone who I believe has the
potential to do something big, and is someone I believe I can work
well with, then I'll work with them, male or female. Some of the
best fights I've ever seen in my life were female MMA fights, and I
think it's important and it's something that needs to be there in
Barnett's next bout is set for May 18 in Sengoku against long-time
training partner Jeff Monson
"Again I'm fighting a friend, like when I fought Yoshida, but this
one's even more difficult for me because [Monson] was on my team
for the Ring of Fire, spent some time with me at AMC Pankration,
and I've been in his corner for almost all of his UFC fights, and
I've helped him get ready for many of his fights in his career,"
Barnett said. "I guess that's the thing. When you're in the
business long enough, you meet enough people, make a lot of
friendships and relationships, but when it comes down to it, you
can fight anybody. I can do that, but it doesn't mean I always
"I talked to him a little bit beforehand, just let him know they
brought his name up, asking him, ‘What should we do about it?
Should we accept this fight?' And in the end, what it came down to
was that nobody was going to fight us, and so the only people that
could put on a match was us. We're professionals, so we're going to
go out there and do what we have to do and fight."
Outside of the Monson bout, there had been rumblings of Barnett's
participation in Affliction's endeavors to promote its own MMA
event. Despite not being officially signed, Barnett appeared
optimistic at the idea of fighting for the clothing brand turned
fight promoter, given his involvement with the company's apparel in
"I think that if anyone would be a perfect fit for that, it'd be
me, since I'm the second MMA guy behind Justin Levens (Pictures) to get involved with their custom
T-shirt designs," Barnett said. "Before even Randy got involved,
before there was anyone else in MMA involved -- I've got T-shirts
you can't even buy that were produced by Affliction."
One name circulating in the rumor mill as an opponent for Barnett
is a man he has a history with -- Pedro Rizzo (Pictures), who holds a knockout victory
over him from seven years prior, at UFC 30.
"Now that would be nice," said Barnett regarding a potential
showdown with Rizzo in Affliction. "You know he's got a win over
Jeff [Monson] and [Justin] Eilers, so he's back on the winning
track from those performances in Pride. Right after I lost that
fight [to Rizzo], when Frank
Shamrock (Pictures) was interviewing me, asking me,
‘What happened?' I said, ‘I just got caught coming in and I got
knocked out, but you know what? I'm going to come back here and
fight him again and knock his ass out.'"
Though no deal is official, Barnett is confident as always that the
fights will come to him. Even as the UFC acquired most of the top
heavyweights in the world, he stayed patient.
"The only thing I can say is that I sat back, and yeah, I had to
suffer for a year by not fighting. But I stuck by my convictions
and I knew what I was doing," he said. "I've been in this business
long enough to know that once you start to think something is set
in stone, and that that is the only way it is going to be and has
to be, you're in for a surprise because chances are you're going to
turn out wrong."
"I still get many people telling me to go to the UFC, but I don't
need the UFC, and I knew it was only a matter of time until the
wheel started to turn and these other big fights would come. Now
you've got Affliction possibly promoting big cards, and I've
already got Sengoku here who are giving me fights and are telling
me they want to do a grand prix."
Exciting as those prospects may be, Barnett does apparently realize
the tenuousness of the situation. While things are changing, he is
not quite secure just yet.
"Though I wish I had something that was a little more scheduled,
like, ‘I have two or three more fights at these times,' so that I
can plan ahead, things are only just starting to pay off now," he
said. "But I'm a pro-wrestler, and I go on tour and fight every
night. I have no idea who I can fight or even when I can fight. But
I'll be ready. I can deal with it.
"I had to sit out a year, but I'm finally back and have one fight
under my belt. I'll be fighting in another one soon and will just
be chugging away here, proving myself by putting strength behind my
words. Saying what I do, doing what I say. All those who took me
off their rankings, don't worry. I'll be right back there at the
top again sometime in the near future."
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