War of Words: Baroni-Shamrock

By Jake Rossen Jun 7, 2007
"He's a scumbag." Later, "He's a fraud." And then, "He's a pompous a__hole."

By the time Phil Baroni (Pictures) had run out of adjectives for pending opponent Frank Shamrock (Pictures) on Thursday afternoon, he responded to one question by urinating near his phone, then flushing.

The verbal warfare, contained in a telephone press conference sponsored by ProElite and Strikeforce, was in the service of their pending June 22 bout in San Jose, Calif.

Though both men displayed little concern for their counterpart, it was Baroni who was the more outspoken (and incontinent) of the two, criticizing everything from Shamrock's motivations to his self-professed knowledge of the martial arts.

"I don't know what homework that a__hole's been doing," Baroni chided. "I'll knock Frank Shamrock (Pictures) the f__k out and put him back on the seminar circuit where he belongs.

"When he was being an armchair quarterback, I was fighting the best fighters in the world. The guy had a lot to say. I never thought he'd back it up, and I still won't believe it until they lock the cage. I think he's looking for a way to back out. Everyone wants to fight that punk. He's a jack-off."

"I'm a professional fighter," Shamrock countered. "Phil is a professional idiot."

Grudge.com

Seizing the promotional opportunities provided by sites like YouTube, Shamrock began circulating viral videos in 2006 that mocked Baroni and chastised him for not agreeing to the bout sooner.

"It's obviously an effective tool," Shamrock said of the online marketing. "We had a lot of trouble getting Baroni to sign. We used the Internet to push him into it and commit. This whole fight was born from Phil getting online and being his wonderful, vibrant self and creating energy behind fight, which otherwise would never have happened."

It was finances, not fear, said Baroni, that motivated the delay.

"He's patting himself on the back, like that had anything to do with taking the fight," said the middleweight. "I had my manager negotiate a better deal. I've always wanted to fight the guy. A stupid video is going to make me want to fight him? I'll fight anyone, anytime."

The match-up

Pundits have pegged the match as a test of Shamrock's vaunted cardio conditioning against Baroni's ferocious power, a fact not lost on either man.

"Baroni has a puncher's chance," Shamrock admitted. "He's got brute force. He can wrestle."

To prepare, Shamrock has been training with the occupants of his Shamrock Martial Arts Academy, including longtime partner Maurice Smith (Pictures); Baroni has logged time with Shawn Tompkins (Pictures) and AKA.

"Phil is a stepping stone," Shamrock asserted. "I know he doesn't have the cardio and strength to last."

"I think he's gonna f___ing trip on this stone," Baroni retorted. "If he thinks I'm going to fade, he's out of his mind. He ain't gonna weather it. I'm gonna be there for five rounds. He's got me training my ass off. I'm in phenomenal shape, bigger and stronger than ever before. I'm focused.

"Who the f__k has he ever knocked out? I'm the KO artist. No way he stands up with me. You know where to find me. I'll be there, ready to trade. Frank ain't that stupid. He ain't gonna trade with me. If he does, I'm gonna kill him. He's got nothing for me on his feet at all. It'll probably be a ground fight, thanks to his gutlessness."

Philosophies

"Phil doesn't get this, but I'm an artist," said Shamrock. "I study the art of fighting."

"Frank's an artist?" Baroni grunted. "After I knock you out, I'll buy you a box of crayons and you can be an artist. This isn't an exhibition. I'm a f___ing fighter. There's gonna be a fight. I'm gonna pound your f___ing head off. I don't know what a martial artist is. I don't get this cat. You're in for a rude awakening."

Shamrock dismissed any speculation that his extensive layoffs in recent years might be detrimental to his fight career.

"My plan is to come back and fight the best and be the best," he said. "I didn't see a reason to cripple and waste my body when the sport wasn't going anywhere. I've been waiting for this moment, and now is my time. The game is the same, but the money is bigger and the stakes are higher."

"The difference between me and Frank is, I don't care about money," replied Baroni. "I've always been poor. I couldn't care less about money. He's in for the money and popularity."

One thing Shamrock will admit to being apathetic about is the vacant Strikeforce middleweight title, which will be awarded to the winner of the bout.

"I'm not in it for titles," said the 34-year-old Shamrock, who fights out of San Jose, Calif. "I've won more titles than most people will ever win. I'm in it to show the world what MMA is and what professional martial artists are all about."

Looking ahead

Once the dust in the HP Pavilion settles, both Baroni and Shamrock have definitive ideas on their next career choices.

"I have plans through 2009," offered Shamrock. "A [rematch with Renzo Gracie (Pictures)] is on the horizon. I'd like to fight Cung Le (Pictures) sometime in 2008. And if Baroni and me have a good fight, maybe I'll give him a rematch."

Shamrock didn't rule out a bout with his adoptive brother, Ken Shamrock (Pictures), calling it "an idea that's been floated around."

Baroni, who has been subject of media reports that UFC President Dana White would slot him back to the UFC fold with a win here, clarified that he's welcome in that promotion anytime and has a non-exclusive contract with Strikeforce.

"Look at who's in the middleweight division there (UFC). It's a bunch of bums, reality TV rejects," said the 31-year-old New York Badass.

Beating Shamrock, suggested Baroni, would be rewarded with a "big bonus" from White, as well as a title shot against Anderson Silva or his successor.

Parting shots

After nearly an hour of disparaging comments, Baroni acknowledged that Shamrock was a "legend" in the sport. "He's a good fighter. It'd be stupid not to say that. He's well rounded and he's a good athlete. He studies fighting, whatever that means. I don't study fighting, I just fight.

"I can't afford to lose to this guy. There's a lot on the line. It'd be the worst thing to happen in my career."

Shamrock reiterated his personal philosophy.

"One person lives their life a certain way, one doesn't. I've fought everyone in the world, trained with everyone in the world. I know what my skill set is.

"See you in the cage."

For comments, email jrossen@sherdog.com
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