Josh Barnett and the UFC have engaged in a vigorous courting dance since the slow digestion of Strikeforce began, with UFC president Dana White letting go of nearly a decade of Barnett hating to state his newfound respect for Barnett and Barnett sounding willing to sign a non-compete agreement and give up on his passion of pro wrasslin. But alas, a deal was not struck over ‘a single stumbling block’ (my guess: a PPV cut).

But now Josh has appeared on the MMA Hour today to discuss his MMA future, and of course the topic of fighting in the UFC came up. His comments have reignited fans’ hopes that a deal can be struck:

“I would love to fight in the UFC next,” he said, before noting how many times fans have quizzed him about the possibility of fighting Frank Mir over the years.

“I’ve been a top 10 fighter longer than anybody active in mixed martial arts at this time,” he said. “And there’s a real good reason for that. To be in the UFC would mean to go back to where I already won the belt, to go back to where I was a champion at 24 years old, and try to cement my legacy as an MMA fighter. I don’t really feel I can create that legacy and finish on a high point unless I’m there.”

The admission will no doubt create new buzz, as in February, Barnett officially declined the UFC’s offer and turned his attention elsewhere.

Barnett said his management team is talking to all available suitors and has received offers, but that “the UFC would be the most attractive place to ply my wares.”

It wasn’t so long ago that people were hailing the UFC’s heavyweight division as revitalized and deep, but UFC 160 is a reminder that it’s the Cain and Junior division with very few prospects out there likely to shuffle them out of spot #1 or #2. Daniel Cormier is gearing up for a run at the light heavyweight belt. Alistair Overeem keeps shooting himself in the foot. At a time where the UFC needs heavyweight title contenders, having Josh Barnett sitting around twiddling his thumbs almost seems silly. Is he worth a percentage of PPV proceeds? The UFC might decide he is depending on how things shake out on May 25th.

(pic by Mark Smith for USA Today)