Phil Baroni: Dave Mandel | Sherdog.com
Phil Baroni knows he has to win.
If he loses his UFC 125 matchup against Brad Tavares on Jan. 1, he knows what will happen.
“They’re going to cut me. I’m pretty sure they would,” Baroni said during a recent “Savage Dog Show” interview on the Sherdog Radio Network. “Should they? No, because I come to fight. … But you’ve got to win. Winning takes care of everything. So I need a win.”
Baroni returned to the UFC in November last year and dropped a unanimous decision to Amir Sadollah. It was his second loss in a row, and coupled with his struggles in other promotions, likely makes his upcoming bout against Tavares a critical one.
“I’ve probably forgot more than this kid knows,” Baroni said. “I plan on winning. This is it for me. Let’s be serious. My back’s against the wall, but you know what? I’ve been here before. I’ve been here for the last six or seven years. I better win this fight or I’m done. If I don’t win this fight, it’s over.”
Baroni debuted in the UFC in February 2001 and exited the promotion four years later. He had mixed success in Pride and later toured the regional circuit, which he doesn’t want to do again.
“It’s been a long time to get back,” Baroni said. “I don’t feel like bouncing around, flying overseas and worrying about not getting paid or fighting in smaller promotions where I’m taking pictures backstage with the other competitors. I want to fight in the big show.”
He wants to win too, and that’s why he left his home in Las Vegas to train with Josh Koscheck, Jon Fitch and company at American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, Calif. Leaving Las Vegas was essential, said Baroni.
“I guess some of the demons from New York followed me out to Las Vegas,” he explained. “They found me and they took me to the gambling and the drinking and stuff like that. I had to get out of there. I was out of there a lot when I was fighting in Pride and I was successful. When I went back there telling myself, ‘I’m OK, I can handle this,’ I kind of fell off the wagon a couple of times. It was obvious in my performances, but I’m refocused, rededicated. I’ve already been out here [in San Jose] a good eight weeks training. I feel the best I’ve felt in years. Of course everybody says that when they’re getting ready for a fight, but I really do.”
Against Tavares, Baroni sees himself taking on a hungry up-and-comer.
“He’s still wet behind the ears, and when you’re a young kid and you’re undefeated, you just think you’re unbeatable,” Baroni said. “You think you can stay that way forever and you’re going to be the champion and no one can beat you. In a fight with a guy like that, you have to make him realize right off the bat, ‘Hey, buddy, you’re not unbeatable and you’re going to lose right now.’”
In Baroni’s view, the fight hinges on taking his opponent’s confidence. If he can do that and get a win over Tavares, he believes momentum will follow and he can right his career.
“You’re one punch away from resurrecting your career,” Baroni said, “and I can hit as hard as any of them.”
Listen to the full interview (beginning at 18:15) with Baroni, who also discussed sparring with Koscheck and Fitch at AKA.