I recently spoke with former UFC Heavyweight Champion Josh Barnett, who will challenge TNA World Champion Bobby Lashley for the TNA World Heavyweight Championship on Impact Wrestling this Thursday night. You can read the interview below, and make sure to check back next week for more from Barnett:

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How long have you been a pro wrestling fan because you've obviously been doing it for a while?

"Since I was a kid. I used to watch WWF back in the day and some NWA stuff, AWA when I could catch it. I was always drawn to the titanic struggles between all these big behemoths of sport."

Who were some of your favorites growing up?

"I loved The Road Warriors. I liked The Hart Foundation. I was never a [Hulk] Hogan fan. I never really went for the good guys so much, but I wasn't always necessarily into the heels either. So I was a big 'Macho Man' Randy Savage fan and I liked Vader at the time. I especially watched his UWF stuff, Sting, and Dusty."

You obviously worked a lot with Bobby Lashley. You trained together. How long have you known Lashley?

"You know, that's a good question. I'm not sure. Five or six years, maybe. Hard to say."

It was obviously a big surprise when you showed up at TNA. How did that deal come about?

"I think they found my number from the inside of a bathroom stall. And it said, 'call for a good match'. "

Was it pretty well in advance [that TNA contacted you] before you showed up or was it kind of a last minute deal?

"Well, it came together pretty quick. I wouldn't call it "last minute", but a lot had to be worked out. But it was something that I wanted to do and I like wrestling Bobby and working with him and I liked the idea of this new opportunity."

UFC has nixed things like this in the past for other guys. So they were OK with it, and did they know you'd be working with Lashley [who is under contract with Bellator]?

"No, not exactly. But they have given my leeway about wrestling in the past."

How is it seeing Lashley's progression as far as from pro wrestler to legit Bellator fighter? He has been on a hot streak.

"It has always been great to see him go out and succeed and I've been in his corner for a good number of those, and at the very least giving him advice from a distance. But he's really put together a decent string of wins for himself. I think that he's really poised, posed, to possibly threaten for a title bout."

You and Lashley have wrestled before. What was your first match like?

"God, it was in IGF and it was pretty hard-hitting. We went out for a good amount of time and it was the first and only time I did a dropkick off the top rope, so it was a good time. And we got in there and we mixed it up. You know, what's nice about people like Bobby is that I can get in there and we can do a lot of stuff without having to do it ahead of time. We don't have to call it. We just put hands on each other and get moving and we wrestled."

Had you spoken with TNA at all in the past or was this the first time?

"No, this is really the first introduction really talking to these guys. Fortunately, it went well."

How was it dealing with Anthem Sports as far as this deal went about?

"They were really kind to me when I was down there. My manager did all the work."

Were you familiar with any of the other wrestlers that were there?

"When I got there, yeah. But leading into it, I didn't have a whole lot of knowledge."

What can fans look forward to in your match [on Impact this Thursday]?

"Well, hopefully, something they enjoy. I think the biggest thing is that we try to keep a decently high pace, we hit hard, and I'd like to think that when you watch it, you're watching wrestling, not so much choreography."

Is a lot of that because of how well you guys know each other?

"A little bit, but it is also because of our backgrounds. We have amateur wrestling backgrounds, fighting backgrounds, so we're doing combat sports in a shoot environment, so then when we go in to work, it's just little adaptations here and there at times."

TNA is going to be taping again in Marc. As far as you know, do you know if you're going to be appear at them?

"I don't at the moment, but that could change."

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