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(Sorry, kids. Christmas is canceled this year.)
Josh Barnett is currently scheduled to face Sergei Kharitonov in the semi-finals of the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix, September 10th in Cincinnati. He was also scheduled to face kickboxing legend Jerome Le Banner in an August 27th pro-wrestling match for IGF in Japan, because he’s Josh Barnett, and fake-fighting dudes that he could just as easily fight for real is what he does, damn it.
But while that sort of thing wouldn’t have batted an eye under Scott Coker’s droopy watch, Zuffa runs a much tighter ship, and won’t run the risk of Barnett suffering an injury in a worked puroresu match two weeks before he has to show up for a legit cage-fight. As Fighters Only reports:
…Barnett has been prevailed upon not to take the gig which, despite being a pre-determined pro-wrestling match rather than a proper fight, could still potentially have resulted in him picking up an injury…With Alistair Overeem having already been removed from the semi-finals thanks to an injury/contract dispute, it would have been disastrous had Barnett been forced out as well.
The August 27th IGF card is still going ahead in Japan. Aside from LeBanner it also features Peter Aerts and Ray Sefo. Why anybody would want to see real fighters having pretend fights is beyond us, but pro-wrestling gigs pay well in Japan and with K-1 on hiatus, these kind of gigs are a good earner for name fighters.
So in a strange turn of fate, Josh Barnett has become the biggest star remaining in Strikeforce’s heavyweight tournament — the other semi-finalists are Kharitonov, Antonio Silva, and Daniel Cormier, for God’s sake — and Zuffa actually needs him. Funny how things work out.
The September 10th Strikeforce show will also feature Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza’s latest middleweight title defense against Luke Rockhold, Muhammad “King Mo” Lawal’s return against Roger Gracie, and a lightweight feature between Josh Thomson and former Sengoku stunner Maximo Blanco.