Phil Baroni talked to Rod Moyer of FightLine.com to discuss his upcoming fight this Saturday with Joe Riggs at Strikeforce: Lawler vs. Shields. Baroni responds to comments Riggs made to FightLine.com earlier this week, Frank Shamrock, training with Frank Mir, Brock Lesnar and much more.
Fightline.com: How would you describe your fighting style?
Phil Baroni: I love to stop my opponent. I love to knock em’ out and make them unconsciousness. I mean, I’ve always been a fan growing up of fighting and those were the fighters I always liked, guys that knock people out. Mike Tyson and guys like that. I’ve always wanted to emulate that kind of fighter and put on an amazing show.
Fightline.com: Who are some of the fighters that you look up to?
Baroni: Back in the day Mark Coleman and Frank Shamrock. A lot of guys right now, GSP is on top of his game, Josh Thompson, Gilbert Melendez, you have to love how far Kenny Florian’s come, there’s a lot of guys. Eddie Alvarez, Fedor is the best, by far, pound for pound. There’s a ton of guys.
Fightline.com: You have a fight coming up in two days this Saturday June 6th, in St. Louis Missouri. You’re fighting Joe Riggs, a man who had some unflattering things to say about you in his interview with FightLine.com (link). What are your thoughts on what he said?
Baroni: His mouth is writing checks that his ass can’t cash. He’s got a big mouth. I think he’s talking so much now because he’s scared. To be real, what’s the comeback for that? The time to talk is done. The fight’s been promoted already. I can’t wait to get it on and show him what I’ve got. I don’t think he’s going to last . . . you know, I know he won’t last. I know he ain’t gonna go the distance, but the longer it lasts, the better. I’m in great shape! It’s a mistake. He really has no chance to win. I’ve already won this fight with my training and preparation. I’m not really worried about what he has to say. I plan on taking care of my business. That’s why they like to watch Phil Baroni, because I take care of my business.
Fightline.com: Let’s talk about your preparation. How long have you been training with Randy Couture?
Baroni: For this fight, I’ve been training for 5 months. I’m in top shape. I’ve been training with Drysdale, a great boxing coach, a great kick boxing coach. I’m ready to go, I’m the best shape I’ve ever been. I’m a street fighter and I get to show how much I’ve improved, and show how much better of a fighter I am. It’s my coming out party.
Fightline.com: You fought at middleweight most of your career and decided to move down to welterweight. You’re 3-0 since then. What affect will that have on you, and why did you decide to make that move?
Baroni: Losing 15 pounds of muscle. I’ve worked my ass off. I’ve always worked real hard, but it seemed like I couldn’t keep my conditioning where I needed it to be. Now, it’s easy. I think if I was down at this weight, it would be me with all of Matt Hughes’s hype and accolades. I would have been the champion. I just didn’t think I would make the weight. I’ve changed a lot of things – diet, everything, I was eating the wrong type of food for my blood type. That’s why I was so big and another reason I got so excited. I’m an A blood type. I’m not going to get into it. Look it up if you care, that’s the worst blood type to be. I’m not going to look back.
Fightline.com: Now after you had a loss at UFC 51 with Pete Sell, a lot of people wrote you off and said you were done. What do you say to all of the people that said Phil Baroni was done.
Baroni: Ah man, that was ridiculous. I won 14 minutes of that fight. I made a mistake by the cage and tried to pass the guard, but the cage was in the way, and he guillotined me. I thought I could ride it out, there was a minute left but the next thing you know, I was choked unconscious. I made a mistake, I didn’t fight right. I was fighting not to lose because I was coming off some bad losses from Evan Tanner. Who cares about that really? As far as after that, I got robbed against Misaki. Misaki beat Henderson, he beat everybody, and I definitely beat Misaki if you watch the fight again. I got robbed in Japan.
Fightline.com: The Strikeforce Roster is more stacked than ever. They obviously got the contracts from EliteXC. After your fight with Joe Riggs this weekend, what are your plans? What specifically would you like to do within the welterweight Division in Strikeforce?
Baroni: I want to be a champion! I want to win the title! That’s all I want to do, and that’s all I care about doing! That’s my goal. That’s why I dropped down to 170, which is where I should have been fighting at first. I’ve been in some big fights but I wasn’t in the right weight class. At 170, I feel like a real serious contender and I plan on winning the title, but I’ve got to beat Joe Riggs. All of my roads lead to Joe Riggs, unfortunately for him, I’m going to knock him out and prove to everyone that I’m for real. My goal is to be a champion, but he’s a tough fight. He said he had a great camp, so Joe Riggs will be at his best. He’s going to be his best for me and I’m at my best. I expect, I plan on winning. I’ve been fighting a long time. I was 23 when I went professional. I’ve been fighting a long time and I want that belt. I want that gold. I want to feel what it’s like to be a champion. I’ve never been a champion. I want to be a champion. I’ve fought the good fight. I’ve been up and down. I’ve fought for every big promotion in the world. It’s my turn, it’s my time. This is it right now. This is why I’m at 170. That’s why I’m on a strict diet. That’s why I’m religious in my journey now. I’m a different person. There’s no way I’m not going to be a champion.
Fightline.com: Let’s play a little word association: UFC
Baroni: NFL Superbowl.
Fightline.com: Dana White
Baroni: Great business man.
Fightline.com: Chuck Liddell
Baroni: Great fighter.
Baroni: Up and comer.
Fightline.com: Phil Baroni
Baroni: The best ever.
Fightline.com: Phil, talk to me about the mindset. What kind of mental preparation do you have to have? People talk about leadership and personal development – you’re talking about 10-12 years of training and training and sacrifice and more training day after day after day. Maybe you get a day off per week . . . maybe! Mentally, what’s the difference of the mindset that you have versus all of the people that have faded off over the years since you came into the sport?
Baroni: Determination. Persistence. Perseverance. I’m not going to stop. I’m not going to stop, man. I believe in myself, I believe in my ability and I know that I’m going to be the champion that I was born to be. I just have to keep on fighting and not give up. To me, part of being a fighter is fighting through things. It’s easy to fight when things are easy. The hard part is battling back and figuring out ways to win. My whole life is a fight, and I’ve been training my whole life for it. I’m not about to give up. I’m not going to give up at anything. I’ve made so many changes. It’s . . . you know, the easiest way to put it is that I’m a martial artist. Before I was a prize fighter – I would train real hard for fights, and then take off and live a regular life. But now, I’m a martial artist living the martial way. As corny as that may sound, look at guy like Frank Shamrock. I can talk about that because I used to make fun of him. Now, being around guys like Frank Mir, I know what that means now. I’m living that lifestyle. I’m in the gym every day, getting better. I’m a student of the sport. I’ll just show on Saturday night. Really, talking about it isn’t much. I don’t even want to get into it. I’m a different guy than I was before and I hope to show it on Saturday night.
Fightline.com: Now speaking of Frank Shamrock, the two of you had a memorable rivalry. What are your thoughts of him today as a former rival, and do you see fighting him again as an option at some point?
Baroni: The guy’s a legend, you know? He’s a great fighter. What can I say about him? I learned a lot about myself from that fight. I learned a lot in my preparation. I took a lot away from that. I would love to fight him again. I feel like I’m a way better fighter now than I was then. I understand the game a lot more and grew up in that fight. I think I would definitely beat him, but I still think he’s a great fighter. I think Frank’s a great fighter. There’s a lot of guys he can beat. He’s right up there. He’d like to fight Nick Diaz again. He’s a great fighter, I’d love to fight him.
Fightline.com: Phil, you’ve paid your dues, you’ve grown and you’ve transformed as a person. What’s your take on someone like a Brock Lesnar who comes into the sport fresh and is at the top position in the Super Bowl of MMA, as you put it. What’s your take, because a lot of guys say he’s not a real fighter.
Baroni: He’s a real fighter because he’s in the UFC and he beat Randy Couture, so how can anyone say he’s not a real fighter? He’s been wrestling his whole life, [he was an] NCAA Champion. The guy’s an athlete. He’s a physical specimen. He’s not the most skilled guy in the world because he just got in the game, but he’s physical and he’s a good athlete. I’m friends with Frank Mir, and Frank has all the tools to beat him, but he’s a hard fight for anyone. He can beat anyone on any given day. He’s got a lot of physicality over a lot of people. He’s a tough fight for a lot of heavyweights. He’s a giant Shawn Sherk. The guy’s tough and he’s a real tough guy for guys to spar and deal with. I don’t have a problem with him. He just beat Randy Couture. He’s a real fighter.
Fightline.com: Outside of fighting. Do you have any goals outside of fighting?
Baroni: I’m not looking at that right now. I’m just focused on my career. I’ve done that in the past, looked at certain things and opportunities. Really, like I said, for the first time in my career I’m focused on being a real martial artist and becoming a better fighter and putting all of my eggs in this basket. I’m not going to worry about that now. There’s no tomorrow, there’s no future, there’s no past, only the present. And I’m looking at it.
Fightline.com: To end up and talk about your fight with Joe Riggs this weekend, how do you see this fight ending. What is your game plan?
Baroni: My game plan is to execute. I want to be sharp. I want to use the skills I’ve been working on. I’ve been working on a lot of different skills, and I want to be on point. If I fight the way I’ve trained, this thing won’t go the distance. There’s no way it will.
Fightline.com: Do you mind sharing that game plan?
Baroni: Not really! (laughs) You’ll see, I really don’t want to say . . . to push the pace and set the tone of the fight. It’s going to be an exciting one. That I can guarantee. That’s one thing that’s not going to change. I’m an action fighter. I will put on a good fight.
Fightline.com: Anything else you want to add or you want people to know?
Baroni: Na man, just I’m thankful for the opportunity to be a fighter. I’m happy and I’m living my dream. I’m thankful to God that I get to do what I love to do, and I’m still in a position to do it! I’m thankful that I figured things out, ya know, figured things out before it’s too late. I want to thank my fans for the support, and sticking by me, and the best is yet to come!