Bringing its Octagon to Japan for its now-annual trip to Saitama, Dana White and the UFC also made sure to bring one of the promotion’s most Japanese-loved non-Japanese fighter: Josh Barnett.
Ranked eighth in the UFC’s heavyweight division, Barnett spent five years of his career competing in Japan during PRIDE’s heyday. He hasn’t competed in Japan since a 2008 victory over Jeff Monson. What’s more, he hasn’t competed inside the Saitama Super Arena since he suffered a unanimous decision loss to Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira in 2006.
After nearly a decade away from the famed arena and nearly two years away from the sport, Barnett knew it was time to come back to both.
“For me, it’s really personal to fight in front of all the Japanese fans,” Barnett said on The MMA Hour. “I’m hoping that with this fight — that even though it is with the UFC, specifically, that we’re going over there for — that the entirety of the Japanese MMA scene can be elevated by having a card that really puts the interest in the fans again, and really gets them excited about MMA as a whole.”
Barnett faces fellow top-15 heavyweight Roy Nelson in the main event at UFC Fight Night 75. The last, and only, time “Big Country” found himself competing in Japan, he was face down on the canvas after eating a heavy right uppercut from a resurgent Mark Hunt last September. The road between his two stints in Japan hasn’t offered much success for Nelson; he dropped a unanimous decision against Alastair Overeem in March — bringing his record to 1-4 through his last five.
The night’s co-main event also features a fighter relatively well known in Japanese MMA circles. Former PRIDE contender and two-division DREAM champion Gegard Mousasi also made a name for himself while fighting in Japan for several years before making the permanent transition to the U.S.-based UFC. Ironically enough, Mousasi’s only fought once inside the States since joining the UFC in 2013.
Mousasi, a former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion, takes on top Ultimate Fighter prospect Uriah Hall in what is expected to be a technical striking affair between two of the sport’s most patient, tactical stand-up fighters.
As is the case with most of the UFC’s offshore ventures, Joe Silva and Sean Shelby made sure to add in a couple of Japan’s own, too.
Fresh off his title defeat against UFC flyweight champion Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson — a loss that effectively ended a nine-fight winning streak — 125-pound Kyoji Horiguchi takes on Chico Camus as he seeks to get back to his winning ways. Taking on Arizona native George Roop is Japan’s Takeya Mizugaki, as both bantamweight fighters look to rebound from recent losses to Rob Font and Aljamain Sterling, respectively.
UFC Fight Night 75 weigh-in results are as follows:
Main Card (FOX Sports 1; 10 p.m. ET)
Josh Barnett (239) vs. Roy Nelson (261)
Gegard Mousasi (186) vs. Uriah Hall (186)
Kyoji Horiguchi (125) vs. Chico Camus (126.5)*
Takeya Mizugaki (136) vs. George Roop (135)
Katsunori Kikuno (145) vs. Diego Brandao (146)
Mizuto Hirota (146) vs. Teruto Ishihara (146)
Preliminaries (FOX Sports 2; 8 p.m. ET)
Keita Nakamura (170) vs. Li Jingliang (171)
Nick Hein (155) vs. Yusuke Kasuya (156)
Naoyuki Kotani (156) vs. Kajan Johnson (156)
Shinsho Anzai (170) vs. Roger Zapata (171)
* Missed weight; has one hour to lose make the limit