Manager: Josh Barnett Has Not Agreed to Defend King of Pancrase Title in 2013



On Thursday, reports surfaced that Josh Barnett had agreed to defend his open-weight King of Pancrase title in 2013. According to Barnett’s manager, Leland LaBarre, those reports are false.

Though “The Warmaster” was recently approached by the long-running promotion while he was in Japan for a pro-wrestling match, Barnett’s manager says that the heavyweight never agreed to fight for Pancrase in the coming year.

“It’s not true. I guess [Pancrase] talked to Josh while [Josh] was [in Japan], and they said they would love to have him back, but there was nothing [to it],” LaBarre told Sherdog.com. “Certainly Josh would never indicate that he was going to go fight there, and they never reached out to me. There is nothing imminent. There is nothing that we are planning on doing. I can’t imagine that happening. There are no discussions, and there have been no discussions.”

According to LaBarre, Barnett is directly focused on his next Strikeforce appearance, which will serve as the last fight on his current deal with the Zuffa-owned promotion. The former Ultimate Fighting Championship belt holder last competed against Daniel Cormier on May 19 in Strikeforce’s heavyweight grand prix final, breaking his hand and dropping a unanimous decision to the American Kickboxing Academy standout.

Following surgery to repair the break, Barnett is now back in the gym and awaiting his next fight, though Strikeforce has not yet announced a date or an opponent for Barnett’s return to the hexagonal cage.

“He is totally back,” said LaBarre. “He’s been training now for almost a month, and we’re excited about the possibility of fighting [soon]. Josh has another fight left on his Strikeforce deal, and he’s excited about that next fight.”

Barnett, 34, captured the King of Pancrase open-weight title in August 2003 and defended it twice successfully before beginning a nine-fight stint with the Pride Fighting Championships. Over the next eight years, Barnett would lose to just two men: Mirko Filipovic (thrice) and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. Barnett’s recent loss to Cormier snapped an eight-fight winning streak for the catch-wrestler.

After Barnett honors the final fight on his Strikeforce deal, he may indeed find himself competing under a different promotional banner in 2013. Provided all parties agree on the terms, fans could potentially see Barnett back in the UFC after Strikeforce folds its heavyweight division.

"If Zuffa wants Josh Barnett to fight in their UFC Octagon after Josh's last Strikeforce fight, I think that is where he'll be,” said LaBarre.

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