For a guy who seems like he’s getting screwed by his employer, Josh Barnett sure is keeping cool about it. First he had his fight with Andrei Arlovski put in jeopardy when Affliction decided they couldn’t pull off their October “Day of Reckoning” event in Las Vegas. Then, a few weeks later, they announce that Arlovski will be fighting on this Saturday’s Elite XC card (and will be paid well to do it), but he’ll face Roy Nelson instead of Barnett. And why? Barnett says he never turned the fight down, but Atencio says he “couldn’t get a hold of him.”
Barnett was cagey while telling his side of the story to MMA Weekly, but it sounds as if there’s something else going on here than just a simple case of miscommunication:
“I was disappointed, yes. That was supposed to be my fight. We talked about it at some point prior to going to Japan, and I found out that I didn’t get the fight while in Japan. I continued to work on some business there, especially after I found out I wasn’t getting the fight.”
Maybe it’s just me, but that doesn’t sound like a guy who just missed a phone call. It could be that Nelson comes a lot cheaper than “The Baby-Faced Assassin”, who has said repeatedly that he is not interested in fighting at a discounted rate.
In any event, whatever is going on between Barnett and Affliction seems to have implications beyond just this Elite XC co-promotion, as Barnett confirmed in no uncertain terms that he won’t be fighting Fedor in January.
Oddly, the implication from the MMA Weekly article is that this might also have something to do with personal feelings between Barnett and Fedor:
“It would be (logical) for the fans, but the fans don’t understand contracts or the way things have been put down on the back end in terms of the business aspect of it,” he said. “Or the details between both of the fighters. So, it’s not really that we want to rob the fans of something, it’s just that I don’t think it’s possible.”
He maintains his decision is based on personal and business reasons.
“There’s just some times it’s better to keep your mouth shut and just not really talk too much about things,” he said. “I’m not trying to make anybody look bad or talk about the details of it, but it’s just not a fight that’s going to happen in January. And I think that the feeling is actually mutual.”
Barnett met Emelianenko for dinner during his trip to Japan, and the possibility of the fight was discussed. It was there Barnett concluded he would not fight his friend in January.
“There’s a lot of factors that go into this one,” he continued. “It’s not so simple.”
Business concerns are understandable. Everybody gots to get paid, and they want the best possible contract terms when they step in the ring. But this stuff about it being personal? That’s a little tough to swallow. What you’re telling me is that Josh Barnett, who almost teared up after his knockout of Pedro Rizzo because he liked the guy so much, doesn’t want to fight Fedor because they’re suddenly buds? He called Rizzo “a beautiful soul” and still it didn’t stop him from knocking the guy stiff. This is one case where you really hope it’s about money.
If a Barnett-Fedor fight gets scrapped because they just can’t bring themselves to hit one another, it will be a sad day for Affliction and MMA fans, and probably a very happy day for Dana White.