Classic heavyweight fights are a rarity in MMA. There has always been a dearth of talent. Competition between promotions always ends up fracturing the already weak weight class. So, when Affliction announced Fedor Emelianenko vs. Josh Barnett, MMA fans thought they were in line for something special.

In the end, the fight never actually happened and Affliction ended up closing up shop and running back to Mr. White. For this failure, Barnett earns the award for 2009’s biggest disappointment.

Toward the end of his Pride FC tenure, Fedor Emelianenko started taking on fighters that were not bona fide challengers. After’s Pride’s demise this trend continued.

At one point, detractors could say, “Fedor hasn’t fought anyone recently besides Hong Man Choi.” When he signed with Affliction all that started to change. For the first time since 2005, the best heavyweight in the world was fighting legitimate heavyweight competition.

After Emelianenko dispatched of Andre Arlovksi and Tim Syliva, the Affliction promotion still had one more mega fight to make. At the time, Josh Barnett was a universally accepted top three heavyweight. For a lot of people Barnett vs. Emelianenko was going to be Christmas in August.

On July 21, 2009, the California State Athletic Commission discovered the results of a random drug screenwhich had been administered to Barnett on June 25. Barnett tested positive for anabolic steroids.

This meant his fight with Fedor was off. Affliction searched frantically for a replacement to fight the Russian powerhouse. There were rumors it was going to be Bobby Lashley, Muhammed Lawal or even Vitor Belfort, who was actually the most likely. In the end though, it was too late.

Ultimately, Affliction and Showtime decided to pull the plug on the whole show. And less than a week later, the promotion closed up shop completely. They were no longer an MMA promotion, just another T-shirt company.

Josh Barnett’s positive drug test not only broke up one of the best heavyweight MMA fights in history, but it also struck down a budding competitor to the UFC. For that, Barnett earns the dubious distinction of being the “ disappointment of 2009”.

Be sure to check out the rest of the awards Breakthrough Fighter of 2009: Muhammed Lawal
More coming soon!

2 thoughts on “ Disappointment of 2009: Josh Barnett”

Leave a Reply