"All my friends are like, 'Nandor … is he an ork? Is he from Mordor?'" Barnett told MMAjunkie.com (MMAjunkie.com
). "I don't know about that, but either way, he's going to try and mess me up."
And Barnett, who in May broke his hand against Daniel Cormier in the finals of the Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix, is tasked with taking the fight seriously – even if the bulk of serious MMA fans may not.
Despite a seven-fight win streak, Guelmino instantly was derided as a subpar opponent for Barnett, whose resume includes a UFC heavyweight championship and laundry list of top-tier competition.
"I think the biggest danger is that he's an unknown quantity, and of all things, I don't beat him spectacularly, regardless of how good he really is, the perception could be that I'm slipping or I'm not as good as people thought," Barnett said. "All the onus lands on me."
Barnett knows next to nothing about Guelmino, other than his Hobbit-like name and penchant for wearing dragon-emblazoned pants in competition, but plans to become an expert in the coming weeks.
The study comes at an uncertain time in his career and for those fighting at the Jan. 12 event, which is expected to be the last in Strikeforce's six-year run in MMA promotion.
"Unfortunately, it's really terrible, because I've now set foot in so many different organizations that all up and folded shop," Barnett said. "It stinks. I hate being in that position. But I'm here to fight and to crush skulls and step over broken bodies. There's always an opportunity for that, somewhere, someplace.
"In the UFC, I know there's plenty of guys over there that would be happy if I never set foot in that octagon. But if it's not there, I know there will be other places. There's always people itching for a fight. That's where I come in."
Landing in the UFC or in another upstart promotion isn't of major concern to Barnett, but he said there are journalists and fans he'd like to prove wrong by returning to the octagon.
"I would love to see the look on some folks' faces ... being someplace where, one, I've already been, even though people may not know it, and two, a place that a lot of folks never thought they'd see me again," he said.
Barnett fought five times in the UFC and took the heavyweight title from Randy Couture at UFC 36. He was later stripped of the belt after testing positive for steroids. He went on to win the open-weight title in the Japanese promotion Pancrase and became a star in PRIDE, which was acquired by UFC parent company Zuffa in 2007.
Barnett globe-hopped for the next few years, fighting on three different continents before signing with Strikeforce in 2011. Prior to his setback against Cormier, which was widely praised by MMA fans, he had won eight straight fights.
News of Strikeforce's imminent shuttering didn't surprise Barnett, who has seen four previous promotional homes go belly up, but the recent decision to allow women's fights in the UFC did. He gave credit to former women's MMA star Gina Carano for breaking down barriers in the world's biggest fight promotion and said rivalry between Ronda Rousey and Cristiane "Cyborg" Santos came at a fortuitous time in the sport.
Whether beating Guelmino is Barnett's lucky ticket remains to be seen.
"I'm not the one that finds the opponents," he said. "I'm just a guy who goes out there and beats the crap out of them.
"Now that I've got a face and a name, no matter how tacky their pants, I've got something to focus on."