It has been a long road back for 33-year-old Josh Barnett.
On September 10, Barnett will meet Sergei Kharitonov at Strikeforce: Barnett vs. Kharitonov in the semifinals of the heavyweight grand prix.
A win in Cincinnati, Ohio, not only moves Barnett into the finals, but places him a step closer to a possible match where the heavyweight championship will be on the line.
Currently, plans for the Strikeforce belt are unknown, as Alistair Overeem continues to negotiate a new contract that could possibly see him sign with the UFC.
As for Barnett, he just wants to put on a show and finish Kharitonov.
“Titles are spoils of war,” Barnett said Tuesday during a media call. “You have to go out there and win battles before you can raid the dead of all their belongings.”
Barnett (30-5) made his Strikeforce debut in June when he submitted Brett Rogers in the quarterfinals of the grand prix. In fact, since falling to Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira in Pride nearly five years ago, Barnett has not lost, winning seven straight fights – only one of which came by decision.
But, that doesn’t mean it has all been a perfect path for him, as Barnett was forced out of the sport for extended periods of time in the U.S. due to failed drug tests. He was also stripped of the UFC heavyweight title after winning it from Randy Couture in 2002 for testing positive for a banned substance.
For now, though, Barnett is focusing only on his upcoming opponent, Kharitonov (18-4).
“He was always a perennial contender and in the upper echelon of the heavyweights,” Barnett said. “He looked in the best shape he’s ever been and looked pretty dominant against (Andrei) Arlovski – but then again, I’m not Arlovski.”
Kharitonov defeated Arlovski, a former UFC heavyweight champion, in the quarterfinals earlier this year to advance.
The other semifinal will also be contested on September 10, as Daniel Cormier meets Antonio Silva. The finals are slated for early 2012.