There’s a big free-agent heavyweight signing to report on, and also the news that a former top-ranked heavyweight has been suspended for life. Below are my thoughts on both in today’s MMA odds and ends.
Josh Barnett Signs With Bellator
Former UFC heavyweight champion Josh Barnett announced on Ariel Helwani’s ESPN MMA Show that he has signed a multi-fight contract with Bellator. In fact, he signed the contract on the show. There’s no word yet on who Barnett will fight in his Bellator debut or when that will be, but you can expect him to get a big name opponent for his first fight in the Bellator cage, and likely at a tentpole event.
Barnett (35-8) has not fought since September 2016, when he submitted Andrei Arlovski in the main event of UFC Hamburg, winning two bonuses for “Fight of the Night” and “Performance of the Night.” All told, Barnett was 3-2 during his second stint in the UFC and showed he was one of the top-15 heavyweights in the world. However, after USADA flagged him for a banned substance and he spent two years in MMA purgatory, USADA admitted Barnett did nothing wrong intentionally and he received a public reprimand instead of a suspension as he ingested a tainted supplement. He still lost two years of his career, though, and Barnett requested and received his release from the UFC after the incident with USADA. He will now to return to MMA at age 41 and coming off of a three-year layoff.
Barnett previously worked with Bellator president Scott Coker in Strikeforce, and Coker should have some big fights lined up for Barnett in his promotional debut under the Bellator banner. A fight against former Bellator heavyweight champion Vitaly Minakov, who just lost a decision to Cheick Kongo, makes sense, as does a superfight against fellow heavyweight legend Fedor Emelianenko, who he was supposed to fight at Affliction: Trilogy a decade ago, if he decided to fight again.
Ruslan Magomedov Suspended By USADA For Life
Former UFC heavyweight contender Ruslan Magomedov has failed a USADA test for a third time and as a result has received a lifetime ban from MMA. USADA posted about its decision on Magomedov on its official website, which you can read here. He is the first MMA fighter to receive a lifetime ban from competition.
Magomedov’s first failed drug test came in 2016, and received a two-year suspension after arguing he ingested a tainted supplement. His second failed drug test came in late 2018 when he tested positive for five banned substances. The third and final failed drug test came in February of this year when he refused to take a random out-of-competition that USADA asked him to take. That counts as a failed drug test in the eyes of USADA, and as a result he has received a lifetime ban.
Magomedov (14-1) had a 3-0 record in the UFC with decision nods over Shawn Jordan, Josh Copeland and Viktor Pesta before his career came to a halt in late 2015. He is currently riding a nine-fight win streak that also includes victories over Tim Sylvia and Ricco Rodriguez.
It’s possible USADA could change its stance down the road, but as of right now that seems unlikely unless Magomedov has some incredible reason why he failed a drug test. Instead, it looks like it’s the end of Magomedov’s MMA career in North America, though he could always take the risk and return to fight in Russia instead, which other fighters who have failed USADA tests decided to do.