LAS VEGAS -- When you think of team players, does Phil Baroni’s name come to mind? Well, it should.
Hearing that Michael Bisping’s training camp was forming in Las Vegas in anticipation of his featured middleweight bout with Dan Henderson at UFC 100, the outspoken “New York Bad Ass” requested a spot on the squad.
The first one laced and padded up, Baroni was a constant man in motion Monday night at the Tapout gym, where the team congregated for its evening session. Baroni, Josh Hall, Mario Neto and Zach Light all rotated in on Bisping with sparring for five-minute intervals to keep the Brit on his toes.
Baroni, a veteran of many a dogfight in the sport’s history, has been impressed with what he’s seen.
“The guy’s a lot better than I thought,” said Baroni. “I wrestled and rolled with him, and he’s hard as f--- to take down, hard to hold down. He’s a lot stronger than he looks. He looks good, fit, but he’s strong. He’s fast, he’s an athlete. He’s a f---king good athlete. That’s the most surprising thing.”
Baroni’s verve brings a positive dynamic to the camp, which seems to mesh together an equal amount of respect and drive. Everyone pitches in with their specific talents (whether it be jiu-jitsu or banging), then gets out of the way when their turn is over. Bisping’s noted work ethic hasn’t waned either.
“(Bisping) reminds me of me when I first got into the UFC, when I got to Japan -- a little cocky, a little arrogant, a little chip on your shoulder -- but that’s what you gotta be. At least certain guys do, and I’m one of those guys,” he said. “I like it. Some people say stuff about him on the show, but that’s exactly how I’d coach my f---ing team.”
Like the rest of the fight community, Baroni can also acknowledge the great challenge Bisping faces in his top-shelf opposition.
“Coming in, I know how tough Dan (Henderson) is. I fought alongside him in Pride and I didn’t know … now I’m confident in Mike,” said Baroni. “Sparring and wrestling with him has made me confident.”
And leave it to Baroni to find his own angle in this, one that will rally him even more behind Bisping’s campaign.
“F--- Dan. I want to beat that motherf---er,” said Baroni. “He’s been in (Matt) Lindland’s corner twice, in (Evan) Tanner’s corner twice, he trained f---ing Frank Shamrock. I want to beat that motherf---er. I’m happy to help Bisping.”