Josh Barnett 4/08/2007 Interview | Welcome to, the VERY Best in Catch Wrestling!
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Josh Barnett 4/08/2007 Interview

Jake Shannon
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I caught up with MMA main-eventer Josh Barnett at the latest Scientific Wrestling clinic featuring Billy Robinson. GONG Magazine in Japan asked me to interview him and this is the exclusive English version:

SW: How did you meet Billy Robinson?

JB: I met Billy through the UWF-Snakepit. I was told about the Gym through some friends (Gryphon I think) and really wanted to check it out. At the time only Oe-san and Miyato-san where the only ones there but Miyato-san told me all about Billy and that I should be sure to come when Billy is in. While I lived in Japan, every time I was in Tokyo I would go to the UWF- Snakepit to train and Billy worked with me a lot. I trained there for many of my fights with Oe-san training my striking and Billy with Miyato-san improving my wrestling skills.

SW: What was the first meeting like? What did you do and talk about?

JB: I didn't what to expect but he had a very high reputation from many people so I felt very strongly about wanting to learn from him. First thing was first and beside an introduction I got to know Billy by getting on the mat and wrestling! He taught many finer points to the double and top wrist lock that night, showed me what I call "the Billy Neck Crank" and coached me and Miyato-san as we wrestled.

SW: Please explain your passion for Catch Wrestling

JB: It's a root on the tree of MMA. Catch went to Brazil with Mitsuo Maeda, formed the basis of New Japan Pro Wrestling and later Japanese shooting through Gotch and Billy, and was an art based on battle testing. It's aggressive and explosive and has a deep history in throughout the world and was my first major exposure to submission.

One of the reasons I got into MMA was because of Pro Wrestling. I always knew that pro wrestling was a sport of real tough men and that most people only knew the surface of pro wrestling. I get upset to see that something like catch, that used to be known and popular all throughout the world, is being ignored. Catch was here before BJJ and BJJ is not the end all, be all of submissions.

I will bring catch wrestling back to the forefront and in the limelight again and I'll do it by beating my opponents.

SW: Who are your top 3 favorite catch as catch can wrestlers of all time?

JB: Billy Robinson and Karl Gotch for bringing catch to Japan and creating the people that would revolutionize pro wrestling/MMA. Ad Santel for declaring war against the best Judokas and showing catch wrestlers were of the strongest wrestlers in the world.

SW: What do you think of the current state of catch and what can be done to improve it?

JB: Some people say catch is a dying or esoteric art, while I don't think it's coming to the forefront it is on making its presence again. They are some folks like myself and Megumi Fujii to name a few that are actively competing but unfortunately there are not enough of us out there. Competition is the only way to truly promote the art and increase its awareness.

I think catch would be much better suited to bringing amateur wrestlers to MMA as well. I see many top amateur wrestlers go to BJJ gyms because that's what they think you have to train to learn submission. Most of the time though, those BJJ trainers train the wrestlers in ways that are counter productive to a wrestlers skills and strengths. Everyone needs a game off their back but not everyone has to use a guard game like a BJJ player.

With active competitors out there in MMA and submission wrestling representing catch is the only way we can spread the art. Seeing winners out there using catch will make that person who might not have known about catch make the decision to go to a gym and learn to wrestle and not sit on their butts.

SW: How did you hook up with Erik Paulson as your trainer?

JB: I met Erik many years ago at one of his seminars in Seattle. From then on I always had a great respect for his training knowledge and techniques. I used to watch his instructional videos and wanted to learn more of his techniques. In 2004 I was in Seattle but I was not able to get the training I felt I needed to be at the top so I decided to train with him in LA. When it came time again to get ready for the GP, I knew that Erik and LA was what I needed to win.

Erik is an incredible trainer and a walking encyclopedia of knowledge. He has been a huge inspiration and help to my career. Plus he is one of the funniest people I have ever known!

SW: What is your opinion of the recent acquisition of Pride by the Fertittas?

JB: It is really too soon to tell but the loss of PRIDE's rules, judging and our ability to wear shoes or dogis is a tragic loss to MMA. I am very upset about this and wish people did not try to marginalize our ability to fight and perform in the ring/cage. It is really disturbing that 90% of the time these rules and regulations come from people who never fought.

SW: What are your plans in the short term for your Mixed Martial Arts career?

JB: Become number one. If you aren't trying to be the best than why do it. We may never become the best but without trying you will never know.

SW: What do you see yourself doing twenty years from now?

JB: Running my own successful dojo and promotion and enjoying my cars I hope!

SW: When will you do pro-wrestling again? Would you ever consider working for the WWE?

JB: Perhaps. It is a big stage and it would be great to use it to show what I believe is pro wrestling but it is really hard to say at this point. I loved working in New Japan and one of my real passions would be to make a new type of UWF.

I am not forever removed from pro wrestling and will be in the ring again I promise.

SW: What do you think of the following influential shoot-style Professional Wrestling matches featuring Antonio Inoki?

vs Muhammad Ali
vs Paku Sonnan
vs Acram Peru one(Great Gama Family)

JB: I think Inoki vs Ali was a historical match up that helped pro wrestling's popularity a lot but it was not much of a match because the wrestler really couldn't wrestle. The rules were much too restrictive for Inoki and he was in my opinion, handicapped by them. If the match was PRIDE rules, Inoki would have beaten Ali easily and quickly.

Inoki versus Acram showed that just because you have famous family name it doesn't mean you are as great as they were. Acram asked for the match to be a shoot, insisted to do it his way and Inoki said, "OK, we can fight any way you want."

Inoki had someone backstage hit him in the face a few times and then Inoki went out to the ring and out a real hurt on Acram. In the end, Acram got more than he asked for when Inoki broke his arm with a double wristlock.

SW: Have you been able to train with Antonio Inoki while you were wrestling for New Japan Pro Wrestling?

JB: I have not been able to work out much with Inoki-sama but he has shown me a few techniques and spent a lot of time talking with me. I have been very lucky to have received much advice from Inoki-sama. Much of what I do in pro wrestling is what Inoki-sama has tried to teach me along with people like Miyato-san and Liger to name a few have taught me.

SW: What is the most impressive match in Inoki's repertoire?

JB: Inoki versus Billy Robinson is the template for a pro wrestling match and I think all aspiring wrestlers should watch it to learn from it.

SW: Do you have any particularly interesting memories with Inoki that stand out in your mind?

JB: Speaking one-on-one with Inoki-sama before my match against Scott Norton at the Green Dome in Sapporo. His support of me and talking about our beliefs in pro wrestling was a strong moment for me.

SW: What do you think Mr. Inoki's legacy will be?

JB: Inoki-sama is an icon to professional wrestling and spokesperson for the truth of real, strong pro wrestling. I will always be grateful to Inoki-sama for his building up of pro wrestling and contributions to MMA. SW: What was the most interesting aspect of Billy Robinson's seminar?

JB: It was a great seminar and even though I have trained under Billy on the past I still learned so many things. I brought Megumi Fujii, Abeani, Erik Paulson and Harry Smith with me too to learn. Everyone picked up many great techniques and Billy told us many great stories of wrestling's past as well.

We worked on all aspects from takedowns to submissions and even some physical training. I can't say much about all of his techniques but that the finished DVD will be great.

I use techniques that Billy taught me every time I wrestle.

SW: We read that you might participate in ADCC 2007? What's the reason for the interest in ADCC if you are in fact participating?

JB: I talked to the committee earlier this year but because my schedule is so uncertain right now it is too difficult for me to concentrate on just ADCC. Not this year for me but I am bringing a women's team to compete with: Megumi Fujii, Hitomi Akano and Shannon Hooper.

SW: What is your impression of the present ADCC fighters?

JB: Too much holding and point playing and not enough submission and take down game. Most of the time, when you watch two good grapplers at ADCC it is boring with lots of stalling. A match between top guys should be the most exciting!

SW: How do you feel about Roger Gracie's ADCC technique?

JB: He is the champ right now so it must be good!

SW: What do you think now that UFC and PRIDE might unite rules (e.g., the soccer kick will disappear, Elbows strikes will increase, etc.)

JB: This is terrible if you ask me and now we will see more cuts from elbows and more stalling on top to just land an elbow. We need the yellow card rule and PRIDE style judging to make the best fights I feel. I would be happier with elbows added to PRIDE rules than PRIDE rules taken away and UFC rules in place. The soccer kicks and stomps make the fight much more dynamic and open I think.

Luckily, there is still Pancrase and they are a first rate company with great rules and excellent judging criteria. If they want worldwide unified rules, Pancrase rules would be a good choice.

SW: In Pride, you can wear wrestling shoes or a judo gi. What do you think of the UFC's elimination of this optional gear?

JB: Not being able to wear a dogi or wrestling shoes is nonsense!

SW: How about the first round at 10 minutes and following rounds at 5 minutes structure?

JB: I like the 10 minute round but the most important thing is the PRIDE judging system. I believe it covers the bout as a whole better than the current US systems do.

SW: During the interviews held by UFC leadership in Japan a "Barnett vs Arlovski" fight was mentioned as a dream card. What do you think?

JB: Why? In my opinion there are more interesting people for me to fight than an ex-UFC champion during a weak division. I would rather do a rematch with Randy Couture, even though I already beat him. It wouldn't have to be for the belt either.

I think a dream match up for me is Volk Han or maybe Alexander Karelin. Of course those are truly "what if" matches but I think the fans would love them.

If U-style was still around I would want a rematch with Tamura-san and to get TK out of retirement for just one match. It would be amazing!

SW: How do you think you match up against the Heavyweight champion of UFC?

JB: I would say I am better.

SW: With whom will you fight with and in which ring (or Octagon) in the future?

JB: Right now it is unknown. But I hope to fight the champions whoever that may be and give a beautiful fight to everyone watching. I am an American and support America but I will carry Japan into the ring and give Japan a strong champion as well.