MMA Analysis: Texas Grants Josh Barnett a License; Big Deal?

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The problem with a relative slow news cycle in MMA is that the media looks for any little item in which to blow out of proportion. 

Case in point was the recent media blitz regarding Strikeforce Grand Prix participant Josh Barnett and the fact that his paperwork to obtain a fight license in Texas had not been completed yet.  This caused a number of outlets to pontificate on what this means.  Was Barnett afraid he might again fail a post-fight drug test like he did in 2009 (in a move that effectively killed upstart Affliction’s MMA promotion)?   Given his issues with the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC), why wouldn’t Barnett work to ensure Texas granted him a license? 

Look, I get it.  Barnett is always going to make headlines whenever he fights due to his testing positive for steroids prior to meeting Fedor Emelianenko in California back in ’09.  Thing is, it wasn’t his first positive test for performance enchaining drugs.  Barnett also tested positive for PEDs in Nevada back in March 2002.  While Barnett may not like it, the fact remains that a licensing stigma will follow Barnett for the remainder of his career.  This is fair given that on two separate occasions Barnett has not yielded a clean sample, not exactly a ringing endorsement for Barnett’s ethics.

Which, of course, is why Strikeforce opted to hold their June 18 Grand Prix continuation in Dallas.  The Texas Department of Licensing and Regulations (TDLR) has long and illustrious history of conveniently going all maverick on state’s athletic commission when it fits their’ purpose.  Case in point was the decision of the TDLR to license boxer Antonio Margarito to fight in a very, very, lucrative bout against Manny Pacquiao in Cowboy Stadium in Dallas.  Never mind the fact that Margarito had his license revoked in California for reportedly loading his hand wraps with a plaster-like substance prior to a bout with Shane Mosley.  Let me run that by you again in case you missed it; he loaded up his hand wraps with an illegal substance.  Inarguably, such an action was about as heinous as one can get.  So it was understandable that nearly every big athletic commission in the country denied Margarito’s request for a license.  Well, all except Texas.  I understand that is well within its right to license whomever they deem to have “met their requirements,” but it would be nice if the TDLR would at least try to make it not look so blatant.

Texas is always going to march to the beat of its own drum and that manner of thinking is also applicable for the TDLR.  This is why I found it so comical that there was a growing concern that Barnett would not get his license from Texas in time for his fight this weekend in Dallas.  Of course he was going to be licensed.  There was never a doubt as there was simply too much money on the table for his fight against Brett Rogers. 

Money talks to these athletic commission.  With Strikeforce/UFC comes a huge windfall of tax profits for the state.  For better or worse that’s just the way it is. 

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