Former UFC champion Josh Barnett says there is no question that whoever comes out on top of the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix is the top heavyweight in the sport.
The Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix has managed to amass one of the best collections of fighters in one tournament in the history of the sport.
From Strikeforce heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem to Fabricio Werdum to Antonio Silva to Sergei Kharitonov, the tournament has put together a list of top ten fighters that has rarely been seen in one place, at one time.
Former UFC heavyweight champion Josh Barnett is one of those famous names making his Strikeforce debut this weekend when he faces Brett Rogers in an opening round match-up in the Heavyweight Grand Prix.
Barnett has been off for nearly a year while waiting for Strikeforce to get him a fight, and for his place in the tournament to come around, but now that it’s here he’s excited to get back in action. Looking over the names in the brackets, Barnett is sure that whoever wins this tournament has to be viewed as the top heavyweight in the sport when the dust settles.
“I absolutely believe that the winner of this tournament is the No. 1 heavyweight in the world,” Barnett told MMAWeekly Radio. “Anybody that comes out on the top of this has the experience, or got the track record, and it will be proven without a doubt. I think I’m fighting in the toughest collection of heavyweights just about ever assembled. To say otherwise would be a real travesty, and would definitely show bias.”
To kick off the opening round of the tournament, Barnett will face heavy handed striker Brett Rogers who returns to action after going 1-2 in his last three fights.
Rogers fell to former Pride legend Fedor Emelianenko, but not without putting up a fight, and punished the Russian before succumbing to strikes in the 2nd round of their bout in 2009. The Chicago native didn’t fair so well however when he faced Strikeforce heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem, where he was finished inside the first round of their fight last year.
On paper, Barnett is a heavy favorite in the bout with Rogers.
With nearly three times the experience not to mention the who’s who list of fighters Barnett has faced over the years, he is the overwhelming choice by most to win this fight. Just because he’s supposed to win doesn’t mean he will, and that’s the thought that Barnett keeps tucked away as he trains and prepares to meet Rogers this weekend in Dallas.
“He’s still fairly young, not real young to this sport, but he doesn’t come there with the pedigree that I do. So, by all means I should take him out, but nothing’s to be said until the fight actually goes down, and anything can happen out there in the ring,” said Barnett.
Throughout his 30+ fight career, Barnett has faced every type of fighter from striker to wrestler to jiu-jitsu practitioner. The crafty veteran faced a somewhat similar fighter in his second to last fight when he fought Mighty Mo in Dream last March.
While Rogers definitely has some height and reach on Mighty Mo, the punching power is eerily similar, but Barnett got through him in less than a round, and based on skillsets he believes Mighty Mo was the tougher opponent.
“I think Mighty Mo is a tougher opponent than Brett, as Mighty Mo actually has a pretty decent wrestling background from high school and he’s a K-1 level kickboxer,” Barnett explained.
Barnett understands that Rogers is still an unfinished project, trying to learn the sport and progress as a fighter.
“He’s far from being one of the best guys out there in its entirety. What I mean by this is to be consistently one of the best guys. I think if he touches you he can knock anybody out, but I don’t think even he would be willing to say that he’s acquired all the skills that are necessary to be the best fighter in the world at this point,” Barnett stated.
What Barnett knows for sure about Rogers for their fight this Saturday night is that he is dangerous, and he has been preparing for this bout for months.
“I think the best Brett Rogers is going to show up come June 18, so when I go out there and I beat him, I’m going to beat the best Brett that there’s ever been,” said Barnett.
Josh Barnett meets Brett Rogers this Saturday night in Dallas during the next round of the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix.
Damon Martin is the lead staff writer and radio host for MMAWeekly.com.
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