Josh Barnett confirms UFC departure

Josh Barnett in scrum
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Heavyweight veteran Josh Barnett is no longer a member of the UFC roster.

On Sunday, Barnett released a statement in which he confirmed that he has officially parted ways with the UFC after a five-year run with the promotion.

The news was first reported by MMAjunkie.

In his statement, Barnett writes that while he appreciates the time he’s spent in the UFC, he believes they have “a structure in place to create their stories” but that it isn’t “my story”. He indicates that he will continue fighting, though beyond that he’s unsure of what his next move will be.

The 40-year-old also took the United States Anti-Doping Agency — the UFC’s official drug testing partner — to task for how they handled a recent failed test that currently has Barnett on a provisional suspension from competition.

“The debacle with USADA over the last year and a half has also influenced my decision to exit the UFC,” Barnett wrote. “Their dogged insistence to punish me for what they absolutely knew was an issue of contamination was unethical. By trying to manufacture any reason they could legitimize to increase sanctions against me was unacceptable. For their stance to necessitate my retaining counsel and do legal battle with them in the presence of an arbitrator was unnecessary. They preferred an adversarial to a just and fair process.

“I cannot in good conscience trust them to act in good faith or perhaps may even wish to look to enact some sort of vengeance in an attempt to cancel out my victory against them in arbitration. It’s not the kind of environment that I want to spend the final years of my career in.”

Barnett (35-8) has been competing professionally since 1997 and he captured the UFC heavyweight championship at UFC 36 with a win over Randy Couture. After testing positive for a banned substance — he also tested positive for banned substances in a test before a scheduled 2009 Affliction fight with Fedor Emelianenko, which was canceled — Barnett was stripped of the title and he would go on to compete in the PRIDE, Affliction, and Strikeforce organizations among others, before returning to the UFC in 2013. His overall Octagon record stands at 7-3.

He concluded his statement by reiterating his gratitude to the UFC and his plans to carve out a new chapter in his legacy on his own.

“There are a lot of stories left to tell with my career, and I want to be the one to determine them without influence,” Barnett wrote. “To do that fully I need to go it alone, I have to be the architect of my destiny. To traversing battlefields far and wide. The UFC has been very good to me and a great place to fight, but what time I have left in this sport I need to be the one calling the shots and creating the battle plans.

“I hear the call for high adventure and I will oblige.”

Read Barnett’s statement in its entirety below:

A Career as long as mine can take many paths or even change direction altogether at times. This is one of those times. No one thought I would ever be back in the UFC given the tumultuous relationship that we had had in the past, but for 5 fights and 5 years, that’s precisely where I have been. I have very much enjoyed my time there. The UFC has been a wonderful experience the second time around and together we have done great things. Although I am sure we could continue to do so, I feel that it’s time for me to take another path. They have great fighters and the biggest platform in the world so why would I want to leave? The UFC has a structure in place to create their stories, their way, and it’s a good way, but it’s not my way – it’s not my story. The call for adventure is still within me, and I wish to exercise it. I long to go back more to the way of the early days of MMA, traveling the world to exotic places fighting in different rules, rings or cages or who knows what, fighters that have been under the radar; the unknown. There are so many athletes and places that I want to fight, and by going my own way, I will have the ability to try and create that story and make these opportunities a reality, a reality I wouldn’t have been able to make if I stayed in the UFC.

The debacle with USADA over the last year and a half has also influenced my decision to exit the UFC. Their dogged insistence to punish me for what they absolutely knew was an issue of contamination was unethical. By trying to manufacture any reason they could legitimize to increase sanctions against me was unacceptable. For their stance to necessitate my retaining counsel and do legal battle with them in the presence of an arbitrator was unnecessary. They preferred an adversarial to a just and fair process. I cannot in good conscience trust them to act in good faith or perhaps may even wish to look to enact some sort of vengeance in an attempt to cancel out my victory against them in arbitration. It’s not the kind of environment that I want to spend the final years of my career in.

I would like to go beyond the bureaucracy by leaving the UFC. I hope I will be able to create the fights I want, compete in grappling, professional wrestling and take on opportunities as I can create and manage in the way that I wish to. As a piece in the UFC puzzle, I would have had to work for their narrative and designs on their timeline – as one should expect. There are a lot of stories left to tell with my career, and I want to be the one to determine them without influence. To do that fully I need to go it alone, I have to be the architect of my destiny. To traversing battlefields far and wide. The UFC has been very good to me and a great place to fight, but what time I have left in this sport I need to be the one calling the shots and creating the battle plans. I hear the call for high adventure and I will oblige.

Onward into countless battles.

The Warmaster

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