Affliction vice president Tom Atencio confirmed in an interview with MMAWeekly.com on Wednesday morning that Josh Barnett has been pulled from his main event match-up against Fedor Emelianenko due to an alleged positive test result for a banned substance from the California State Athletic Commission.
At this time, he would not speculate who the replacement fighter to face Emelianenko would be, but said that the promotion is working on it and hopes to announce something soon.
"Josh was denied his license, the renewal of his license, due to testing positive for a banned substance," Atencio said in the interview.
Bill Douglas, Assistant Executive Officer of CSAC, wrote in an email to MMAWeekly.com that a “comprehensive statement” regarding the matter would be released on Wednesday.
With the show just over a week away, rumors are already flying as to who Affliction could bring in to face the No. 1 heavyweight fighter in the world on short notice.
"Right now, it's rumors. I'm working on something and I think anybody that knows me knows I'm not going to say anything until I have something finalized," said Atencio. "At this point everything's rumors. I am working towards finding somebody, but until I have the contracts signed I'm not saying anything."
The fight between Fedor and Barnett was set to be a five-round title fight, but again, Atencio said it's a wait-and-see situation for the replacement fighter if the bout would end up as a championship bout or a three-round non-title affair.
"It's up to whomever steps up and whatever agreement we come to," he commented.
At this point the rumored fighters to step up and face Emelianenko have centered on middleweight fighter Vitor Belfort, and former WWE superstar Bobby Lashley, but the Affliction vice president didn't want to speculate if either could step in to the main event.
Belfort's name seems to be leading the way as to who could step up for the fight with Fedor, and when talking about the currently scheduled match-up between Belfort and American Top Team fighter Jorge Santiago, Atencio said, "It's definitely a fight I'm looking forward to, if anything changes, obviously everybody's going to find out. At this point, it's an amazing fight."
MMAWeekly.com sources on Tuesday night said that Belfort had agreed in principle to step up two weight classes to face Emelianenko, but maintained he had not yet fully committed to the fight and was still weighing his options.
Speaking with Sherdog.com late Tuesday night, Lashley said, “I don't know if I would want it right now... That would be something I would really have to take a look at. To just jump in there probably wouldn't be the smartest thing for me right now.”
One fighter whose name has popped up amidst the speculation is Brett Rogers, although he hasn’t been approached about the fight yet.
"The opportunity to fight Fedor on 10 days (notice) is something that Brett would entertain," his agent, Ken Pavia told MMAWeekly.com. "A lot of stars would have to align, but it is not beyond the realm of possibilities."
Rogers, who has an undefeated 10-0 record, is fresh off a 22-second knockout win over former UFC heavyweight titleholder Andrei Arlovski. Emelianenko is 30-1 and unanimously regarded at the No. 1 ranked heavyweight in the world. He is also coming off a knockout victory of Arlovski.
Stay tuned to MMAWeekly.com for more information on Barnett's replacement as it becomes available.
(Steven Marrocco and Jeff Cain contributed to this report.)
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