Phil Baroni fought his first UFC bout in 2001 at UFC 30 in Atlantic City, N.J. It was just his second pro bout and he scored a unanimous decision over Curtis Stout.
Since then, Baroni (13-13) has gone on to fight multiple times a year in the top organizations in the world, the UFC, PRIDE, Elite XC and Strikeforce. Despite a .500 record, Baroni has remained a fan-favorite because of his exciting go-for-broke style.
Baroni is the type of fighter you root for, the type of fighter you want to see do good. He’s the consummate entertainer.
Baroni knows how important this fight is for his career. He is used to competing at a high level and taking a fight with a relative unknown like Nolte is dangerous.
ProMMAnowcom‘s (www.prommanow.com) Joshua Cross caught up with “The New York Badass” this week to talk about the upcoming fight, which will be his first since being released from the UFC last month. Baroni discussed the style match-up, his training, long term goals, how long he plans to keep competing and which one of his old foes he would like the chance to pay back.
PRO MMA NOW: You’re fighting Nick Nolte (3-2) at Titan Fighting Championships 17. Titan Fighting CEO Joe Kelly recently said that this was the first leg of your comeback tour. How do you plan on kicking it off?
PHIL BARONI: I plan on kicking it off with an exciting win. Whether it’s a knockout or a submission finish, I definitely plan on finishing the fight and looking good in doing it.
PRO MMA NOW: Kelly also said that this gives you an opportunity to work back to where you want to be. Can you elaborate on that and tell us where exactly it is that you want to eventually be in the future?
PHIL BARONI: Well right now in the middleweight division, all roads lead to the UFC. I mean that could change. Who knows what could go on with Bellator or Strikeforce, but right now in my mind, all roads lead back to the UFC. In that organization I feel like I didn’t have my best performances there and it left a bad taste in my mouth. I have a bad taste in my mouth and I would like to get back in there and show everybody what I’ve really got.
PRO MMA NOW: How long have you known about this fight, and how long have you been training for it?
PHIL BARONI: I’ve known about this fight for about a week now. I’ve watched [Nolte] fight a couple of times on YouTube. I didn’t get to see his Strikeforce fight or his Bellator fight yet, so I’m going to try and do that, but I’ve seen some of his earlier fights. He just brings it. He’s got a pretty good D’arce Choke, he’s got pretty good take down defense. He’s pretty aggressive with high kicks and punches and spinning back fists. He’s a dangerous opponent and he comes to fight. This is a big opportunity for him. I think he’ll be a game opponent and I think it will be an exciting fight for the fans.
PRO MMA NOW: From what you do know about Nolte, what’s your game plan for this fight?
PHIL BARONI: I’ve been fighting for over 10 years. The game plan is pretty much always the same.
PRO MMA NOW: And what exactly is that game plan?
PHIL BARONI: Smash him as fast as possible.
PRO MMA NOW: Nolte has a 3-2 professional record. Do you think that the experience difference between you both benefits you in this fight?
PHIL BARONI: I’ve been fighting longer at the highest level than a lot of guys. Experience is another term for bad shit that happens to you. That’s what people call experience. You know what I mean? They don’t call good shit that happens to you experience. So yeah, if you’re looking at my career then I’ve had more shit happen to me than this guy has. I’m used to fighting at a real high level. I’ve fought a lot of great opponents and a lot of great fighters in big fights so I don’t think I’ll have nerves. I’ll be a lot calmer than he is and I’ll be ready to fight. He’s going to have to deal with the nerves and the pressure especially fighting in his hometown. For me it’s going to be another day in the park and for him it’s a big opportunity.
PRO MMA NOW: Can you tell us about your training camp, who you’re training with, and what you’re focusing on?
PHIL BARONI: Right now I’m in Las Vegas training but I’m heading back to AKA to do Jiu-Jitsu training. You know Javier Mendez has taken a real liking to me, putting me through workouts and helping guide me. I plan on sticking there. The game plan is becoming a better fight, a better mixed martial artist, not being so one dimensional, and using my wresting and my Jiu-Jitsu.
PRO MMA NOW: You’ve said that you can’t afford to be anything but your best for this fight. What have you been working on in order to become the best fighter that you can be for this fight?
PHIL BARONI: I need to be in really good shape. I need to have my reflexes fast. That’s what I need to work on. All of that comes from being in the gym so I need to be in the gym and I can’t afford any letdowns or any slip ups like I did in my last fight and get caught. I’ve got to win this fight. You know, there are going to be a lot of eyes on this fight. I’m fortunate for the fight to be on HDNet, so there will be a lot of people watching, and this is a good way to showcase that I’m still a contender. I’m going to have to use this guy as an example of how good I really am.
PRO MMA NOW: How well is your progress coming along to be the best fighter you can be by March 25?
PHIL BARONI: I’ve had six weeks since my last fight in the UFC and like I said I think I just got caught. I felt like I was well on my way to winning that fight. I think I had a little bit of bad luck and you know I’ve been on it ever since. I’ve upped my strength and conditioning program. I was a little light for my last fight so I’m going to come in stronger for this fight, maybe a little bigger. I’m going to try to put a little size and strength on but what matters most is that I’m still in the gym. I haven’t gained a lot in excess weight. I’m still training and running and doing what I can. Once I get back to AKA it’s on. I’m going to be training as hard as ever.
PRO MMA NOW: What should the fans expect when they tune in to watch your fight on HDNet?
PHIL BARONI: If you’re a fight fan, you’re a Phil Baroni fan because I always come to fight, and my opponent is the same way. So, two guys locked in the cage, battling it out. It’s not going to be a boring, take down and hold him on the ground match, or a jockeying for position match. This is going to be a fight to the finish. My opponent is wild on his feet, he throws heavy leg kicks, spinning back fists, spinning back elbows. He’s not going to be a guy trying to survive. He is going to be a guy looking to win, and when he leaves himself open I’m going to take his head off. So you’re not going to want to miss it.
PRO MMA NOW: Any words to your opponent before the fight?
PHIL BARONI: You know, I’ve said it before, I’ve been talking the talk for the last 10 years. For this one, it’s time for me to just get in there and blast this guy out and have everybody talking after it’s over.
PRO MMA NOW: Most fans probably remember your heated rivalry with Frank Shamrock. Do the two of you still not like each other?
PHIL BARONI: I think we have a lot of respect for each other especially after that fight. It was a good fight. He fought hard. I’d like to get in there with him one more time. I think the better fighter lost that night and I would like to get in there with him one more time.
PRO MMA NOW: Do you think that fight with Frank Shamrock will happen at some point?
PHIL BARONI: Who knows? I’d do it tomorrow or whenever I think I’ve got to win some fights. Someone’s got to make him an offer that he can’t refuse. That fight might possibly happen again in Strikeforce. I win a couple of fights and that’s a big fight. I would definitely step up and take it. It’s just up to him. You know if they make him a big offer… I don’t think he’s making too much money with his bullying bullshit and whatever he’s doing now. I don’t think he’s going to make it as an actor you know he’s got his braces. I might have to crooken his teeth back up sooner or later.
PRO MMA NOW: You’ve been fighting for over a decade now. How much longer do you see yourself fighting?
PHIL BARONI: I don’t really think about it. I feel good. I feel really good. I’m trying to fight as often as I can, and if I’m doing good, why would I stop? So I’m giving myself four years to get shit right. By that time either I make it or maybe it’s time to move on, but I plan on making it.
PRO MMA NOW: Is there anything left to accomplish in the sport that you would want to retire after having done it?
PHIL BARONI: No. I think that everybody that’s in the sport, they’re not just in it for the money, they’re in it to be world champion. If I won a world title I definitely wouldn’t want to retire. I’d want to defend it. I’d like to enjoy being at the top for a little while, and if you’re in this sport that’s got to be in the back of your mind at all times. That would be the ultimate goal, but I’ve got to beat this Nolte guy first.
PRO MMA NOW: You’ve done some commentary in the past. How do you like doing that, and is that something you could see yourself doing more of in the future?
PHIL BARONI: I’ve done commentary for MMA Big Show. I’ve done commentary for Pride. I did commentary for K1. I’ve done a lot of commentary and really enjoyed it. I think I’m pretty good at it, and yeah I would definitely like to do that when I’m done fighting at sometime. When it’s all said and done I would definitely like to be involved in that. The thing I love about the sport is traveling and seeing the world and meeting the fans. I don’t think I would want to give up this lifestyle. Maybe referring or commentary or something like that where I can still be involved.
PRO MMA NOW: Is there anyone or any sponsors you would like to plug before you go?
PRO MMA NOW: What would be the best way for your fans to keep track of what you’re doing?
PHIL BARONI: I got my Twitter (@PhilBaroni). I have a Facebook fan page. I have two pages, I have a fan page and a personal page for people that I know. So join my fan page. A lot of other people try to join my other page and I don’t accept them because it’s a personal page so join my fan page. I post as much if not more on the fan page so just join the fan page on Facebook.
PRO MMA NOW: Anything else you might want to add before you go?
PHIL BARONI: I’m feeling pretty good. I feel healthy. I feel strong and I plan on putting on a good performance in Titan with the two fights that I have already signed with this company in March and May and then seeing what offers come and taking it from there.
Titan Fighting Championships 17 will air live on HDNet Friday, March 25, from the historic Memorial Hall in Kansas City, Kansas. Tickets are on sale now at all local Ticketmaster outlets, online at Ticketmaster.com, as well as the Memorial Hall box office.