Josh Barnett Talks Pro Wrestling, CM Punk In UFC, NJPW On AXS, Fighting Brock Lesnar, Bobby Lashley

I recently spoke with former UFC heavyweight champion Josh Barnett, who will be doing commentary with Mauro Ranallo for the upcoming NJPW series on AXS TV that will be premiering this Friday, January 16th. The hour-long weekly series will feature matches from NJPW's Japanese broadcasts and pay-per-view events and will air on Friday nights at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT. In part two of the interview below, Barnett talked about CM Punk signing with the UFC, how Bobby Lashley is faring in Bellator, today's product, Bellator bringing more showmanship back to MMA, Brock Lesnar possibly returning to UFC, if he would want to fight Lesnar and more.

Click here for part one of the interview, where Barnett talked about growing up a wrestling fan, doing pro wrestling and MMA at the same time, if he would be interested in signing with WWE or TNA and more.

You can follow Josh Barnett on Twitter and Instagram @joshlbarnett, and you can get more information about New Japan Pro Wrestling on AXS TV at AXS.TV. You can also get his merch at indymerch.com.

What was your influence with the match with Hideki Suzuki at DREAM's "Fight for Japan" on New Year's Eve in Japan in 2011?

It's actually the style I'm best at, shoot style. Although it's not super UFWi-esque, which is my favorite style of match to watch. Hideki Suzuki is also a student of Billy Robinson, we're both catch wrestlers. We wanted to show an older, slower-paced catch-as-catch-can root in the ring. We enjoy it and we can work it. My philosophy is that less is more. I wanted Suzuki to have more offense, but it can be difficult and he's a younger guy. I have a bit of a name over there, and it can be a bit daunting because I've been on the other end. In the end I think it came out pretty well. There weren't many spots called in the match. There was maybe a rough skeleton, and I called it in the right and played it by ear.

I like to work without a whole lot of conversation and structure and planning. I'm no Ric Flair, but I think there's a reason because so many of his matches are so organic and naturally moving. I want that to be the case in my matches. I knew that match was on a fight card, and people were gonna see this. It had a lot of strong style elements to it. Brainbuster, Northern Lights Suplex, and I finished him with a Northern Lights Bomb. You can work any style you want to work as long is the audience is trained to accept it. If you have an audience that only works sports entertainment, they're not going to get it. But you can ease your way in to it to where people respect a submission and understand which submissions are most dangerous. They'll pick it up, they just need time to really understand what they're watching.

Do you follow today's product in the U.S.?

Not really. Shayna Baszler and Jessamyn Duke (UFC fighters), two students of mine, follow it massively. I pay attention to what some of my friends are doing over there, but not really. I don't have cable so that makes it difficult too. I couldn't even watch it if I wanted to in general.

You have the NJPW show on AXS [debuting this Friday]. When were you approached about this?

A couple of months ago. I don't know if I was on their shortlist, but they just said they'd like for me to come do this. They asked if I was interested and I said I'd love to. Getting to work with Mauro Ranall was awesome because he's one of my favorite MMA announcers. The show includes some of their best product over the last couple of years. It throws all of the casual fans in, and brings everybody up to speed for the future shows that will be more current and catch everybody up.

Did the UFC have to sign off on this?

No, this is something completely different. I'm not actually going out there and taking a body slam from Mauro, we're just doing commentary. With that I'm free to do what I like.

Are you looking to get back in the cage soon, or are you still taking some time off?

I'm looking to get back in the cage when my timeline allows for me to do such. Right now I'm busy with a lot of different projects. I need about four months, some lead in so you're not trying to leap to the top of the hill. For me to put aside four months of my life and dedicate it only to fight is a little difficult right now.

What was your reaction to CM Punk signing with the UFC?

Shocked. I had no idea that it was even coming. He's going to put eyes on the TV and butts in the seats and there's no arguing that. MMA is a promotion, it's not really a sport. It's a sporting event, I guess. It's more akin to professional wrestling. If people wanna pay to see you fight, you're gonna get in the cage.

You've trained with Bobby Lashley a few times. How do you think he's faring in Bellator?

Bobby's doing good for himself. I've had him out in California to work with him before. Glad to see him doing well. I'd like to see him back at CSW to get some more work in but we'll see how that goes. He's got a re-match coming up with James Thompson, which is a great fight, and he never should have lost the first one.

It seems like UFC has gotten away from a lot of the showmanship that you would see in PRIDE, and Bellator seems to be bringing it back. What are your thoughts on that shift?

I'm into it. I think the more that an individual is able to show who he/she is, the better. The people who follow you should have a reason to do that. You shouldn't talk like everyone else. The stars and athletes drive the sports. People tune in to see so and so fight. People can get tired of a faceless anomaly that isn't very interesting. Really, really casual football fans got into fantasy football. Now they have to learn about the individuals and the stats. Now they give a s--t. Now you have an investment. The same thing with fighting-- you need to have an investment. The only way to do that is to allow individuals to shine.

What do you make of the rumors of Brock Lesnar returning to the UFC, is he on your radar?

He's not on my radar. He's over in the WWE and he's the champ. If he wants to come back to the UFC, I would love to fight him, who wouldn't? I think a lot of people are jumping on that because they think Brock Lesnar would be an easy target for a lot of money because of his last couple of fights. That's why guys in MMA call each other out most of the time. High reward and low risk. I don't care about that sort of thing.

Brock was the number one guy at one point, and I took offense to that. He had great potential and was a great athlete, but his path to the title was set up for him. I thought calling him the number one fighter in the world and the champ was ridiculous. You saw it when he fought two guys that were high ranked, real tough dudes, who brought more to the table. He got destroyed. He needed more time, he was new to this. If you were in the UFC as a heavyweight, you'd be an idiot to not want to fight Brock Lesnar. Whether he's a good fight for you, that doesn't matter. You're going to be a part of something Brock Lesnar is a part of. He'll get all the money and all the press and all the PR, and he won't be able to bring Paul Heyman so there won't be any promos, but you'll at least get swept up in that and have your name mentioned. That's a plus.

Click here for part one of the interview, where Barnett talked about growing up a wrestling fan, doing pro wrestling and MMA at the same time, if he would be interested in signing with WWE or TNA and more.

You can follow Josh Barnett on Twitter and Instagram @joshlbarnett, and you can get more information about New Japan Pro Wrestling on AXS TV at AXS.TV. You can also get his merch at indymerch.com.

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