Heavyweight Barnett puts Strikeforce foes on notice

Josh Barnett doesn’t sound the least bit concerned that the winner of the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix won’t automatically be handed the organization’s vacant title.

The way Barnett figures it, he plans on being the last man standing eventually anyway — and he expressed his mindset last week in descriptive terms.

“Titles and things like that are spoils of war,” Barnett said. “You have to go out there and win battles before you can raze the dead of all their belongings.”

Barnett, a professional wrestling junkie well schooled in bombast, gave his opponents plenty to think about as he prepares to risk his seven-fight winning streak against Sergei Kharitonov in the tournament semifinals on a Strikeforce card in Cincinnati on Saturday night.

Alistair Overeem was the heavyweight champion and had advanced to the semifinals. Then an injury and subsequent contractual issues between his Golden Glory management team and Strikeforce parent company Zuffa prompted his release from Strikeforce.

Overeem’s belt, however, will not be automatically given to the tournament winner, Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker said last week.

Barnett, who became the Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight king at 24 in 2002 before being stripped of the belt for a positive steroid test, admitted he would “love it” if the winner of the tournament was awarded the belt.

“But it doesn’t change my attitude toward getting the job done,” he said. “You have to go out there and you have to beat your opponent. Otherwise you just get to walk home with a black eye and wounded pride.”

The other semifinal features Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva, who ousted Fedor Emelianenko in the quarterfinals, against unbeaten Daniel Cormier, a two-time Olympic wrestler who replaces Overeem.

The card airs tape-delayed on Showtime at 10 p.m.

■ LESNAR BACK TO WORK — UFC president Dana White scoffed at recent rumors that former UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar might be forced to retire due to continued intestinal issues.

“That’s ridiculous,” White said. “It’s so far from the truth, it’s not even funny. The guy’s been working up on a farm up in Canada all summer. His surgery went great, he’s 100 percent. He’s getting back into training in the next couple of weeks.”

Lesnar was diagnosed with diverticulitis for a second time and had to pull out of a scheduled fight against Junior dos Santos in June.

Unlike the first time he was stricken, Lesnar opted to go under the knife and had part of his large intestine removed.

Lesnar last fought in October, when he lost the belt to Cain Velasquez, and White said he is hopeful Lesnar can return to action in early 2012.

■ KOSCHECK IN FOR SANCHEZ? — Diego Sanchez suffered a broken hand and will be unable to fight former UFC welterweight champion Matt Hughes at UFC 135 on Sept. 24 in Denver.

Just hours after White tweeted he was looking for a replacement for Sanchez on Monday, Josh Koscheck took to his Twitter feed to volunteer.

Koscheck posted that he had been contacted about the fight and accepted, but was waiting on Hughes to reciprocate.

Nothing had been made official as of Monday evening.

An undercard bout between Kid Yamamoto and Damacio Page was scrapped last week after both fighters suffered injuries.

■ SHIELDS STAYS IN FIGHT — Despite the recent death of his father and manager, Jake Shields said he will go through with a scheduled main event against Jake Ellenberger on Sept. 17 in New Orleans. Jack Shields, 67, died in his sleep Aug. 29 at his home near Sacramento, Calif.

Contact reporter Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com or 702-224-5509.

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