Josh Barnett Confirms Plan to Exit UFC

UFC heavyweight Josh Barnett
Josh Barnett Credit: Dave Mandel/

USADA has claimed another victim in the form of Josh Barnett, despite the heavyweight prevailing in his battle to clear his name after a drug test failure stemming from a tainted supplement.

After battling for over a year to clear his name following a positive drug test under USADA, Josh Barnett appears all but done with the UFC. Following a report from MMA Junkie citing multiple sources saying Barnett had been granted his release from the promotion, the former heavyweight champion has confirmed that he is in fact seeking his exit.

Speaking to ESPN, Barnett said that “It’s true that I have asked for my release and we are discussing the terms now.”

He added that “Zuffa has been fantastic and above-board since I re-signed with the company. Every promise made has been kept and I have no disparaging words for them.” Zuffa’s controlling interest in the UFC was purchased by WME-IMG in 2016.

However, the main concern for Barnett is the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, who runs the UFC’s Anti-Doping program. Following an arbitration case after failing a drug test in 2016 under USADA, the fighter was found not to be at fault for the banned substance found in his system. Instead, a tainted supplement was uncovered — the maker of which Barnett later sued. Barnett, who had previous drug test failures outside USADA, had gone to the extreme of keeping samples of all his supplements, in case of just such an incident.

While Barnett did not receive a fine or suspension as a result of the incident, the entire process kept him out of action for months and months. “After everything I went through with USADA, and my vindication in that case, I don’t feel comfortable giving the control necessary to USADA that would continue my career in the UFC,” he told ESPN.

Barnett (35-8) now becomes one of the biggest free agents on the market, even at forty years of age. A return to Japan is a possibility, with RIZIN always on the lookout for talent. Bellator MMA would also be a good fit for the heavyweight, as they currently boast a roster including Roy Nelson, Mirko Cro-Cop, Frank Mir, Fedor Emelianenko, Cheick Kongo and more.