After years of speculation as to whether Josh Barnett would ever step foot into the Octagon again, the top ranked heavyweight has reportedly signed a multi-fight deal with the UFC and will make his return later this year.

News of the signing is being reported by USA Today / MMA, and according to the report, his next bout and opponent have yet to be determined.

Barnett (32-6) has relayed in recent months that he would like to return to the UFC, after going 3-1 with the ZUFFA owned Strikeforce. Barnett hasn’t competed in the Octagon since 2002, when he stopped Randy Couture to become the promotion’s champion. The heavyweight failed a post-fight drug test, however, and was stripped of the title.

‘The Warmaster” went on to compete in numerous high profile bouts for organizations like Affliction, PRIDE, and Sengoku among others. The only man to defeat the 35 year-old fighter in his last ten bouts is Daniel Cormier, who handed him a unanimous decision loss last May.

The addition of Barnett to the UFC heavyweight division is big, not only because of his athletic abilities but because of his skills on the mic. This could get interesting.

Photo Credit: Kyle Terada-USA Today