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Exclusive: Phil Baroni talks returning to MMA as a lightweight, Penn vs. Edgar 3 and More!

Former UFC fighter and MMA veteran, Phil Baroni, is getting set to return to the cage this time as a lightweight.

The news is pretty remarkable considering the “New York Bad Ass” was last seen leaving on a stretcher from May 2013’s “ONE FC: Rise To Power” event, after he suffered a gruesome injury in the opening round of his fight with Nobutatsu Suzuki. (GIF courtesy of Zombie Prophet)

After dominating Suzuki in the early going, Baroni found himself backed-up against the cage, which is where the freak accident occurred. Baroni’s right foot got stuck in the gap between the cage and the mat, and as he fell down at an awkward angle, the gruesome result of the injury was revealed. Phil’s foot was literally turned in the wrong direction and the bout was stopped by the referee. The result of the injury was a dislocated ankle and a broken fibula.

It was absolutely terrible news for the 38-year-old, who looked to be on pace for a shot at ONE FC gold had he defeated Suzuki.

When news of his injury hit, most people, fans and media alike, were quick to write-off the “New York Bad Ass,” assuming that he was to old to recover from such a serious injury.

However, the former Strikeforce title challenger never gave up hope, and is now ready to make his return to the cage as he told BJPenn.com’s Chris Taylor in a recent interview:

Taylor: Fans haven’t had a chance to see you in action since ‘ONE FC: Rise to Power’ in May of 2013, where you suffered that horrible leg injury in your bout with Nobutatsu Suzuki. Many people thought that the injury would spell an end to your MMA career but you have proven those doubters wrong by making a remarkable recovery. Judging by the training videos I’ve seen on your twitter, is it safe to say your back to 100%?

Baroni: Even better than 100%. I’d say 120% and still improving.

Taylor: Awesome news! You recently posted a photo on Instagram of yourself on the scale weighing 168 pounds with a caption saying “ONE FC lightweight world champion has a nice ring to it.” When can fans expect to see “NYBA” back in action and will you be fighting under the Bellator or ONE FC banner?

Baroni: I was in talks with Bellator to fight Karo Parisyan in about 6 weeks at Soboba Casino in Temecuala, California. I text Karo after he beat my old training partner Ron Keslar in Bellator and said “Congrats you beat my homie. Good job. Can I please have a shot at you?” He said “Are you sure bro? Do you even know who I am.” I replied “Yeah man I just text ya. You’re the ‘Heat’ and I’d appreciate an opportunity to fight you on a big show on cable.” Haha. Karo is an old buddy of mine from training at XC in Vegas. And the story is true. Except for him asking me if I knew who he was haha.

But, when I got to thinking about it, I owe ONE FC a fight. Even more than a fight. They got my life back on track. I was so depressed and disappointed when the doc in Manila told me “Son, I hate to be the one to have to tell you this but your careers over. You probably won’t be able to walk again with out a cane.” I could tell he felt for me. He was a nice man. He spoke to my wife all the time as she was so worried about me. I was alone in the hospital, my corner had left to Thailand as we had plans to go there after my fight. Not quite sure how long because I was drugged up because of the pain. I mean I’m a tough guy but that shit hurt like a Mo Fo all day and all night. Anyway, Victor Cui president of ONE FC dropped in to see me a day or so later to check on me and I told him I’d be back. He said “don’t worry we will find something for you to do.” And I said “I don’t want a job. I want to fight.” He said “The doctor told me it’s over kid. You had a great career, saw the world, I just spoke to the doc your careers over. You’re 37 years old, how much longer did you want to keep fighting anyway. Don’t worry we’ll find something for you. Commentating something.” I straight up told him “Victor, that Doctor don’t know what kind of man I am. He doesn’t know what I’m made of. I’ll be back!” I could tell he felt for me and replied “I know kid.” But I know he didn’t believe it either. You know I sat alone in that hospital bed for 5 or so days. I’m not sure how long. Then I stayed at the casino that was hosting the event another couple of days alone. And I had a lot of time to think….. Alone in Manila.. Oh wait, a kid I met on twitter who set up some seminars hung around with me for a few days. He was the only one and I just met him on that trip. Gavin Williams from @mmaseminars, super cool guy. I just met him the week leading up to the fight and he stayed and kept me company while I was I’m the hospital. He bought me McDonalds and shit. Found me a joint to smoke. Good dude. I haven’t seen or spoke to him since. So, hey Gavin thank you bro. I appreciate it and book me some seminars in AU and Asia, you’re gonna be back in the Phil Baroni business real soon. Back to the story, I stayed at the hotel a few more days. The hostess for the casino were super nice, they went out of there way to take care of me. They wheeled me around the casino, let me hang in the high roller VIP areas and let me use the hotel phone for free so I could talk to my wife at night, as she was super worried. She was particularly worried about me having to fly back or get surgery in Singapore or something. I’d like to thank them as well. Sorry, I’m using this interview as a way to thank people but fuck, I’m Still the New York Bad Ass and I can do what ever I want. Ya know?

Taylor: Yeah I know, haha. Ok, so your next bout is most likely going to be with ONE FC. On to the next question. Do you have an opponent set for your return? If not, do you have anyone in mind for your next bout?

Baroni: No and to be honest I don’t give a fuck. I just wanna get back in there man. I want to WALK back in there and fucking fight. A lot of my last fight was a blur but I remember clear as day arguing with the commissioners and my corner to pick me up and let me walk out of the ring on my own. I remember yelling at Swick “Fuck that! I’m not going out on a stretcher. Pick me the fuck up let me hop out on one leg and then I’ll go on the stretcher.” He was like “No way man, look at your foot it’s facing the other way.” So I told my other conrerman Greg “Pick me up man!” He was about to and Swick and the other commissioners made him stop and put me back down. I was so pissed and embarrassed having to go out like that. I mean WTF. I’m still pissed about it but it is what it is and its never gonna happen again unless I’m dead. That I’d be ok with. I mean I’d have to be, you know.

Taylor: For sure. I noticed that your back training at One Kick’s gym, where you had arguably the best success of your career. Are you planning on doing this next training camp with multiple gyms?

Baroni: I’m back at OKG! That’s One Kicks Gym if your new to the game. Yeah, I KO’d Sulloeve, Menne, Minowa and Chonan, all while training at OKG . I’m in Vegas and I’m good buddies with Drysdale and Gunderson over at Syndicate MMA, so I’ll bounce around a bit when it comes to grappling. I like going to wrestling practice over at XC (Extreme Couture), they’ve got some young tough guys there, and I need to wrestle, wrestle, wrestle my ass off. I’ll do some wrestling at Syndicate and XC as well as some cage tactics. But when it comes to stand up and striking One Kick Nick is the man. He is the best in the biz. And I’ve been around. I’ve worked with a bunch of the top coaches in the sport. One Kick Nick is the best hands down. He’s the man. Great Muay Thai, top notch boxing G. He’s the best striking coach I’ve ever worked with. Nick is the greatest and he always brings out the best in me. He is the man. He knows me. He knows me better than anybody and knows what I need to do to get my hand raised. All my big wins occurred while he was In my corner. Even the losses we had, that I really should have won. Linland #2. Minowa #2. Come on.. We won those fights. Watch them again, we won those fucking fights. We’re fucking undefeated together. You think the MMA judging sucks now? Lmfao it really sucked back then. And in Japan if you don’t knock their guy out you ain’t winning the fight over there, end of story. One Kick is the man. He just brought a barley 190lbs Dewey the Black Cobra to Dubai to fight Mr. K1 himself Peter Aerts and got a draw. Dewey won the fight. It was close and a tough fight but Dewey won. Dewey is a great fighter. A really good fighter. He’s all OKG!

Taylor: Goof stuff. Can you talk about what influenced your decision to drop down to 155lbs?

Baroni: Nick convinced me. Chatri Sityodtong from Evolve MMA put it in my head first. I trained at his gym and he saw me fight a few times in ONE FC and Dream and mentioned it a few times. Said I have to much muscle and I look like a body builder not a fighter. And that I’d be quicker and have better stamina if I lost muscle. But. when I got back with Nick day 1 out of the blue he says to me “Ok I’ll train ya. But your listening to me and. Your gonna do it my way. It’s my way or the highway. 1st things first, go home and eat what ever you want tonight. Cause after tonight it’s dieting time. Diet and road work. I’m gonna check the wear on your sneakers every week. Your gonna start all your training sessions with a 2 or 3 mile jog depending if we are sparring or not. If ya want me to train ya and you want to get noticed and want people to know that your serious about dropping down to lightweight.” And the rest is history.

Taylor: What has been the hardest part in dropping down to lightweight?

Baroni: Nothing. I just listened to Nick when it came to running and cardio training. And the diet is simply discipline. Ahh, who am I kidding, I’m fucking starving. But, Nick tells me that’s good. I’ve got to be hungry again. I have to get that look back in my eye like I had when I first moved to Vegas. When I had one blue everlast and one red ringside glove and torn up old head gear. I had to get that hunger back. On top of it I’d been out almost a year before I was able to fully train all-out, without having to worry about my leg. I had zero dollars coming in. I’d walk around the grocery store for an hour and eat grapes and nuts and shit I could just grab and eat cause I was so hungry. I had zero dollars coming in. I just didn’t eat. When my leg was fucked all I could do was read. I read the china study. I read a ton about diet and nutrition. I’m pretty much Vegan now. The only thing I don’t eat Vegan are Lana’s Egg Whites. She’s my sponsor from before my injury but she’s a real friend to me and my wife. She sends me free tubs off egg whites all the time. She has even sent me runs of protein powder. She is a great lady, like the big sister I never had. She’s been there for me through this whole comeback. If I didn’t have her, I’d probably have starved. There were days when all I ate was egg whites, so I have to thank her. And since I’m thanking people I want to thank, I have to thank WarMachine for hooking me up with Garden of Life Raw. Warmachine stayed with me a month or so and is sponsored by Garden of Life Raw. She really hooked me and my wife up big time. It’s so much easier to get protein especially plant protien with her raw protein and raw meals. Never mind vitamins and minerals from Real Natural sources. I can go on and on about the products but they’re a big reason I’m down to lift weights and still strong and why I feel healthier than ever. I’m conflicted in telling you about the products because I don’t want the other fighters to know my secrets, yet the products are all so amazing and I love and use them all daily. Like multiple times a day everyday. From oil to green supplements, they’re all top shelf but it’s my secret weapon. Everyone else that fights keep drinking whey protein and taking creatine and gamma fucking O lmfao.

Taylor: Haha the secrets out! Speaking of dropping a weight class, BJ Penn, who you were hanging with last weekend in Las Vegas, is set to make his 145-pound debut in a trilogy bout with Frankie Edgar this July. What do you expect from BJ in his featherweight debut?

Baroni: BJ has always been the best. A motivated BJ Penn who has something to prove is a problem. I mean BJ isn’t doing this for anybody else this time. He’s doing it for himself. He’s not trying to prove he’s better than Frankie to anyone. He has nothing to prove. He beat Matt Hughes when Matt was unstoppable. Not just beat him smashed him. He went up to heavyweight and fought Machida to a draw. He’s a super talent, a phenom, the prodigy. And a BJ Penn who wants to prove something to himself and nobody else but himself is an absolute nightmare. But, that said, Frankie is a winner and his nickname is the answer. Does he have the answer to BJ’s game? We will have to find out. But, BJ has been in there with him and doesn’t think so and will be looking to prove it. He’s my buddy, but honestly I don’t think Frankie will have the answer this time. BJ by rear-naked choke inside 4 rounds.

Taylor: You spent Memorial Day weekend in Las Vegas and judging by the photos posted by Tracy Lee it was a good time. Any good stories to share from the UFC 173 weekend in sin city?

Baroni: I’m from New York bro, and the first thing I learned growing up is snitches get stitches, and then get wacked haha.

Taylor: Haha fair enough. Any last words from the New York Bad Ass?

Baroni: Go fuck your mother. Nah, haha I’m just kidding bro. I’m just happy to be able to fight again and keep on living the dream. I’m very thankful to ONE FC for going over and above to get me the best possible doctor, Dr. Watson, he did an amazing job. Thanks Dr. Watson! Thank you once again Matt Smith for the rehab. Matt Smith has been giving me free rehab since I tore my pec in 2003 . He’s rehabbed both my knees and now my ankle and my back. Heck even my shoulder (torn labrum) and my neck. I’ve been in his office as much as I’ve been to the gym over the years . Thanks Matt and Dr. Randy Yee for all the cortisone shots and support. Thanks to Garden of Life Raw Nutritional Supplements and Lana’s Egg Whites. Thanks to Dr. Rhonda Basharon for all of her help from giving laser therapy, to just letting me use her hyperbaric chamber and giving me an IV to medications when I’m sick and getting me to go to church. Basically what ever I need when I need it. Also want to thank PSI and my strength coach Chris, as well as my conditioning coach Eric Elm. Big thanks to Dr. Cruise from PSI too, he’s my chiropractic and keeps my ancient body feeling young and fresh. OKG, Syndicate and XC for helping me with my training. I basically have a whole team here behind me and pushing me and supporting me. Thanks to my mom for loving me so much! My wife Angela for being so supportive of my career and making so many sacrifices so I can continue to live my Dream. She’s been working so hard in school, at work and in the gym, keeping her body so rocking and just being the most beautiful girl I’ve ever laid eyes on. I might not have had the most successful career and I won’t be making any hall of fame. But, I did get and have the prettiest, best, sweetest, smartest, and most beautiful wife. Oh yeah and I wanna fucking thank strong mother fucking Island NY, especially Massapequa for all the support. I am New York born and bred and it won’t be to long till I’m done with this fighting shit and I’m back to raise my family for good. I also want to thank all my fans for still wanting to buy a ticket to watch me fight all these years.. Thank you all!

And congrats Chris again bro on beating Cancer. You’re a savage bro. A tough Mo Fo. Who needs “thanks again for taking the time Phil and special thanks for your messages during my fight with cancer.” You’re the man! Fuck a colon bro … Ya still got 10%, get your ass out to Thailand and live it up bro. Enjoy life man you fought your ass off for it!

Taylor: Thanks again for the kind words Phil, your positive messages really helped me during my fight. You have the heart of a lion bro, and I’m sure I speak for everyone when I say we can’t wait to see you back in the cage!

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