Affliction Vice-President Tom Atencio said, “I’m not worried about [Fighters.com's ninth-ranked heavyweight “Babyface Assassin” Josh Barnett's (20-5) positive test for a performance-enhancing substance],” Wednesday afternoon on a brief media conference call.
Barnett tested positive Tuesday and was subsequently denied a California State Athletic Commision license to fight Fighters.com Heavyweight Champion “Last Emperor” Fedor Emelianenko (29-1) at Affliction M-1 Global’s Trilogy in Anaheim 1 August.
Atencio stated Barnett was awaiting the results of a second sample taken with the first, but that Atencio was moving forward to find a replacement opponent for Emelianenko.
Atencio indicated there were three fighters in contention. Fighters.com confirmed with “Snowman” Jeff Monson‘s (27-8) camp Wednesday afternoon that the one-time UFC title challenger is negotiating for the matchup. Other sources have confirmed Xtreme Couture middleweight “Phenom” Vitor Belfort (17-8) has also been contacted about fighting Emelianenko.
Fighters.com has yet to find a denial from Barnett, and Atencio didn’t offer one Wednesday afternoon. The positive test would be Barnett’s second.
In 2002, after TKOing eighth-ranked “The Natural” Randy Couture (16-9) for the UFC belt at UFC 36 in Las Vegas, Barnett tested positive for a banned substance and left competition in the United States until returning to Las Vegas to tap Pawel Nastual (1-4) in an ankle lock at PRIDE 32 in 2006.
A charming, popular fighter, Barnett could quickly replace UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar (3-1) as MMA’s heavyweight heel for canning such a huge fight for the sport, himself, Emelianenko, and Affliction.
It’s been widely speculated that the future of Affliction, a clumsy but able competitor to the UFC, is resting on the success of Trilogy, and therefore squarely on the shoulders of Emelianenko and Barnett.
If his second sample confirms the results of his first, Barnett’s mistake could ripple through mixed martial arts for years, knocking out an alternative to the UFC for both top fighters and fans, denying Emelianenko the last proven elite heavyweight matchup outside of the UFC, and tarnishing Barnett’s own legacy with the label of “cheater” and denying him the realistic shot of defeating an icon in the sport.