Another high-profile matchup has been added to Affliction’s July 19th debut card (Location TBA), as Josh Barnett confirmed last night that he’ll be taking on Pedro Rizzo. It’ll only be Barnett’s second match on U.S. soil since UFC 36 (3/22/02), where “The Babyface Assassin” knocked out Randy Couture to win the UFC’s heavyweight belt, but was stripped of the title directly after for failing a steroid test; Barnett then re-launched his career in Japan, where the drug policies were, shall we say, less judgmental.
Adding to the drama is the fact that the two fighters have previously met. Barnett suffered his first career loss at UFC 30 (2/23/01) against Rizzo, who knocked out the Seattle native in the second round. Said Barnett:
“[A]fter he knocked me out with one of those really nice, well put together Pedro Rizzo right hands, I stood right there for the challenge and said you know what, I’m going to come back here, I’m going to fight him again and next time I’m knocking his ass out. So I’ve got to make good on my promises and I’ve got to stick to my word.”
“As much as I love my buddy Fedor, it’s going to suck for him because I’m stealing the show.”
Barnett is consistently ranked among the world’s top ten heavyweights by any MMA news outlet with an opinion (this one included), despite the fact that he hasn’t had an impressive win since 2006. Beating Rizzo would help remind American MMA fans who he is, but a bout with the Brazilian UFC/PRIDE vet isn’t quite the return match we were hoping for. Rizzo has gone 2-2 since leaving the UFC in 2003; true, he scored both of his recent wins last year, but he’s also old enough to have fought Tank Abbott at Ultimate Brazil. Is anyone else getting a “Masters Superfight” vibe from this one?
Video of Barnett vs. Rizzo at UFC 30 is after the jump…