Former UFC heavyweight champion of the world Josh Barnett is all set to make his Bellator debut against fellow UFC veteran Ronny Markes on December 20 at the Neal S. Blaisdell Center in Honolulu, Hawaii.
This will Bellator’s second annual Salute the Troops event. Barnett last fought inside the Octagon back in 2016 at UFC Fight Night 93, where he defeated Andrei Arlovski via third-round rear-naked choke submission.
Markes also fought in the UFC from 2011 to 2014. He went 3-2 in the UFC and the most notable name on his resume is two-time UFC middleweight title challenger Yoel Romero and one-time UFC light heavyweight title challenger Thiago Santos. He lost to both of them before being released. His latest fight took place against Sigi Pasaleli at PFL 3 in June earlier this year where he won via TKO in the second round.
Here’s what Bellator’s press release read:
“To honor the brave men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces, Bellator MMA has once again partnered with the USO to present a special live event free for the troops, along with their friends and families, on Friday, December 20. Emanating from Neal S. Blaisdell Arena in Honolulu, Hawaii, this unique show will be headlined by a heavyweight bout featuring the Bellator debuts of “The Warmaster” Josh Barnett (35-8) and Ronny Markes (19-7)…
After signing with Bellator in April, former UFC heavyweight champion Josh Barnett will make his return to MMA competition for the first time since 2016. A second-degree Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, Barnett has remained prevalent in the combat sports realm, competing in jiu-jitsu events, promoting and performing at his own professional wrestling shows and working as a colour commentator for New Japan Pro Wrestling. Barnett is no stranger to the devoted MMA fanbase in Hawaii, fighting for regional Hawaiian promotion Superbrawl in 1999 and 2000, a stint that included three fights in one night to win the Superbrawl 13 heavyweight tournament. One of the top heavyweights of all-time, the Strikeforce, Pride, UFC, K-1, NJPW, Pancrase, and Affliction mainstay owns victories over legendary stars, including Dan Severn (2x), Semmy Schilt (2x), Randy Couture, Mark Hunt, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Pedro Rizzo, Sergei Kharitonov, Frank Mir, Roy Nelson and Andrei Arlovski.
Fighting professionally since 2007, Ronny Markes will join the Bellator ranks following 26-fights all over the globe including three wins in UFC. Competing for a majority of his nearly 13-year career at middleweight, the 31-year-old will now lace up the gloves as a Bellator heavyweight. Hailing from Natal, Brazil, Markes is coming off a TKO victory in June and will add another big-name fighter to his list of opposition, a list that includes fights against Yoel Romero, Thiago Santos, Aaron Simpson and Paulo Filho.