It's been more than a decade since Josh Barnett last competed in the UFC, but now with a new multi-fight deal in place, it's time for "The Warmaster" to go home again.
For years, Barnett has been one of the elite heavyweights in MMA, but always found himself on the outside looking in when compared to the top fighters in the UFC because he wasn't competing there.
While the veteran fighter was pursued by several other organizations, ultimately the UFC was the spot Barnett always wanted to be, and now he gets to stake his claim as one of the best fighters in the sport while proving it on the biggest stage possible.
"I would lying if I didn't say that being in the UFC is the biggest show available, it's the one that's going to make the most impact," Barnett told Bleacher Report on Thursday. "I'm trying to be champion of the world, being anything less than the UFC heavyweight champion just doesn't have the same ring."
Prior to signing with the UFC last week, Barnett mentioned in an interview with Bleacher Report that the name that made the most sense for his return to the Octagon would be a showdown against fellow former champion Frank Mir.
Much to his surprise, Barnett found out just days ago that not only would he actually get to face Mir in his UFC return, but it was the former heavyweight champion who requested the bout with him at UFC 164 in Milwaukee.
"I don't think Frank is the kind of guy that's afraid of fighting anyone. He's gone in there and broke a guy's arm, he's gone in there and practically seen his life flash before his eyes," Barnett said about Mir. "He knows the deal, this is nothing new to him. He's not going to sweat it. At the same time he wants to go out and test himself, and he wants to fight the people that are going to take him further along in his career and closer to the gold again. He knows it's a big fight and I'm sure all the people that are telling me they wanted to see me fight Frank Mir for so long, they've been telling him the exact same thing on my behalf. It just worked out perfectly.
"I kind of like that somebody deliberately asked to fight me because that's a very rare thing."
Before the fight between the two heavyweight submission specialists was made official, Mir said in an interview with El Octagono that he thought a fight against Barnett would be "phenomenal" and something the fans would really enjoy.
He also didn't mind mentioning Barnett's proclivity to use his ground game, and Mir welcomed the challenge, although he didn't expect his opponent to feel the same way once they got on the mat together.
"I think he's not afraid to grapple with me," Mir said. "Which I think would be one of his downfalls."
Barnett could only smile when he heard about Mir's comments because it will make the victory at UFC 164 just that much sweeter.
"I like a man that's confident in his abilities and believes in himself when he gets out there and thinks he possesses the best weapons to bring to this battle, but that just makes it even better when you go out there and show them how wrong they are," Barnett stated. "He's not going to try and lay and pray me, I know that for a fact. I'm looking forward to that. I'd rather go out there with someone whose trying to kill me, than try to beat me by decision. The idea of him trying to take me down is great. I live for that."
Mir is famous for pre-fight banter where he threatens to go home with an opponent's arm or leg, depending on which submission he happens to catch. Mir has backed up his talk in several past fights, including when he won the UFC heavyweight title by snapping former champion Tim Sylvia's arm, or more recently at UFC 140 when he broke Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira's arm in the Octagon.
This time around, Barnett warns Mir that it might be him that goes home with an ailing limb.
"He's been the one that's been sitting back and talking about taking limbs home," Barnett stated. "He's going to have to watch out for his own right now."
The show is just getting rolling between these two heavyweight icons and it's only likely to get better between now and when UFC 164 actually happens in August. Barnett has a skill to promote a fight like few do in the MMA world, and he's got an opponent that gives as good as he gets.
One thing Barnett knows for sure is that when his walkout song courtesy of his favorite band Bolt Thrower hits the speakers, and the crowd in Milwaukee is on their feet, he will give them a show for the ages.
"Whatever he leaves behind, I'm going to take. To the spoils of war always go to the victor, whatever's left is mine to claim," Barnett said about Mir. "The Warmaster is setting a black crusade upon the UFC again."
Damon Martin is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report and all quotes were obtained first hand unless otherwise noted.