Phil Baroni has not won back-to-back bouts since 2008. | Photo: Taro Irei/Sherdog.com
Phil Baroni became a household name in mixed martial arts as a heavy-handed middleweight with overflowing bravado and a flair for the dramatic. Now 37, the Ultimate Fighting Championship and Pride Fighting Championships veteran seems content to author the next -- and perhaps final -- chapters of his career in Asia.
Baroni will make his third appearance under the One Fighting Championship banner when he meets Japan’s Nobutatsu Suzuki in a preliminary welterweight bout at One FC 9 “Rise to Power” on Friday at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay, Philippines. A Zst mainstay, Suzuki will look to rebound from his first professional defeat -- a rear-naked choke submission against onetime Sengoku welterweight champion Keita Nakamura in December. The entire undercard will stream live and free of charge to Sherdog.com.
Anchored by a background in wrestling, Baroni was a two-time All-American at Nassau Community College and went on to earn a degree in psychology from Central Michigan University. He delved into boxing and kickboxing under Keith Trimble, transitioned to MMA and later trained with Brazilian jiu-jitsu guru Robert Drysdale and high-profile camps like Hammer House, Xtreme Couture Mixed Martial Arts, Wand Fight Team, Evolve MMA and One Kick’s Gym. Baroni has now joined forces with the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, Calif.
“I’ve been doing this s--- for a long time,” he told Sherdog.com. “I’ve been around.”
His current cast of teammates includes Gray Maynard, UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez, Daniel Cormier, Josh Thomson, Mike Swick, Jon Fitch, Marius Zaromskis, Mike Kyle and Luke Rockhold.
“There have been so many influential people in my career, but right now, I’m training at AKA, and my camp for this fight has been great,” Baroni said. “I get to train with so many top-level guys at AKA. I’m in great condition.”
When giving his biography for the UFC three years ago, Baroni cited a training plan that involved coffee, cigarettes, Burger King and Bud Light. No matter how sarcastic or serious he was then, the situation seems to have changed.
“My training regimen is too [expletive] secret,” Baroni said. “All I can tell you is, we spar hard three days a week and I train twice a day. My diet has been really clean, healthy food during the training camp, so [I eat] a lot of vegetables. I’m pretty much a vegan, except for when I eat meat.”
While 15 years in the fight game is a significant amount of time for anyone, Baroni is still 10 years younger than Randy Couture was when “The Natural” hung up the gloves for the last time. The “New York Bad Ass” plans to fight as long as possible.
“Right now, my focus is on One FC and making money,” Baroni said. “I am what you would call a prizefighter. That prize is money, and I want to make a lot more of it before I retire. I want to do well in One FC and become their first welterweight champion. That should get me paid. I have yet to win gold in my career, so I want to win a title before I retire.
“I am probably going to compete for another three or four years or longer,” he added. “I’m going to ride this bitch till the wheels fall off. It depends on my body, as well as my mind.”
Like many native New Yorkers, Baroni has often professed a desire to compete in his home state -- in Madison Square Garden, if possible -- but MMA is not currently sanctioned there. The UFC has lobbied heavily for the situation to change.
“Who knows when it will be legal,” Baroni said. “Politics is so confusing and muddled that it’s hard to predict what will happen, but I’m sure when a big show comes to New York they’re going to want my ass fighting in it.”
Although Baroni’s record stands at 15-16, with five of those losses by knockout or technical knockout, he wanted to make it clear that, in his mind, he has never been on the wrong side of a KO.
“First off, I’ve never been KO’d,” he said. “I have never been separated from consciousness by blows. Yeah, I got choked out once, but that’s what happens when you’re too tough to tap. Who cares about wins and losses? Records are for [expletive] DJs. When I get in the cage, I come to fight, and the fans know that. That’s why they all love me so much. If you’re a fight fan, you’re a Baroni fan, simple as that.”
Baroni’s latest foe has built his career on potent standup. The 35-year-old has delivered all nine of his victories by knockout or technical knockout, five of them inside one round.
“I don’t know who this Honda or, what’s his name, Suzuki mother [expletive] is, and I don’t want to,” Baroni said. “I’m going to hit him and forget him.”