By Damon Martin, MMAWeekly.com
Always outspoken and always ready to fight, Phil Baroni returns to Japan this month for the Pride 183lb Grand Prix. He’s beaten his first round opponent, Ikuhisa Minowa, once already and he may finally get a shot at former UFC Middleweight champion, Murilo Bustamante during this tournament. Baroni sat down with MMAWeekly and gave his thoughts about his tournament chances and what the future holds for the “New York Badass”
MMAWeekly: In the first round of the Bushido tournament, you’ll be taking on Minowa again. Does a rematch with him pose any new threat or are you going to approach this fight the same way?
Phil Baroni: I’m in shape for two 15 minute wars, so I’m not going to have any problems smashing Minowa. I expect it to be a lot easier, but if not, I’m ready to go for two fifteens, hard.
MMAWeekly: Another American that’s in this tournament that sits across the bracket from you is Dan Henderson, who’s a Team Quest guy and you’ve had a few run ins with them before. Would that match-up mean anything to you if you got a shot at him?
Phil Baroni: Yeah, if I get him, it will probably be the finals. It would be nice…it would be nice to knockout Bustamante, knock out Minowa cause he’s a big star over there in Japan and he wanted a rematch which is kind of retarded cause nobody should ever want to fight me again. He’s going to get what he asked for and I’m not going to be so nice this time. And as for Bustamante, this is a long time coming. People say he hasn’t been doing that well, but he hasn’t lost to anyone at 185lbs. He lost to “Rampage” and bigger guys. I’ll definitely take the real UFC title, cause he left it there, and I’m going to take it, I’m going to be the real 185lb UFC champion, and it will be really nice to knock out Dan Henderson in the finals, get the monkey off my back for Team Quest.
MMAWeekly: Evan Tanner was training with you and your guys recently, was there any ill will there left over from your fights or did you just invite him right in to train?
Phil Baroni: No, we trained together at Team Quest hard, when we fought, we fought hard, and we train together now, hard. After the fight, it’s pretty much left right there.
MMAWeekly: I know you train with Mark Coleman and his team, but are you training with other guys as well?
Phil Baroni: I’m in between camps right now. I’m a Hammer House guy, but I train with other guys too. My training partners right now are Jay Hieron, who’s fighting at the next UFC, Jason “Mayhem” Miller, I train with Dewey Cooper who’s a K-1 fighter, and a bunch of young kids who are up and coming and it looks like Evan Tanner is going to be joining us, it’s a good group of guys. We all fight around the same weight and it’s always good.
MMAWeekly: What does it mean to you to succeed in Japan after the way you left the UFC?
Phil Baroni: Basically, everyone was writing me off. I had a couple of close fights, and I had one really bad fight, but what does it all mean, you know? I still believe in myself, I still believe in myself a lot, and obviously I still have the ability to be a champion. And when this Grand Prix is over I’ll be the best 185lb fighter in the world. It just proves what I always said about myself, I never give up. I take care of business, I’ve been in every fight. Every fight I’ve fought in, I’ve been in. I want a title shot, and I’ve put myself right in place. What does it all mean? It means I’m still the fucking man. In the 185lb weight class, I’ll beat anyone out there today. I think I’m the best in the world. I’m going to win this title, and then if they want to unify the title with the UFC, I’ll step back in the cage and knock those guys out. If they want to come to Pride I’ll knock them out in Japan.
MMAWeekly: An old friend of yours, Matt Lindland, recently became a free agent. Would there be any interest in a third match-up with him?
Phil Baroni: You know, Matt Lindland, I thought I beat twice already. I could give a fuck about what the judges said. Both fights he was holding on for dear life and I was pounding the shit out of him. Where I come from, it would have been either his friends pulling me off or the police coming to break it up and arrest me. I think I beat the shit out of him. All he did was hold me down and try to molest me, and I wasn’t going to let him have his way with me. If the opportunity presents itself, I’ll gladly knock him out. With Pride rules he has no chance. He’d probably get the yellow card about 5 times, take away about 50% of his purse. Under Pride rules, I would have won both of those fights. If he comes over there, I’ll gladly kick his head in.
MMAWeekly: Does the Pride ring fit your style of fighting better than the cage? In Pride there’s no way for a wrestler to pin you against a cage and hold you there for 15 minutes, so do you favor that or does it matter?
Phil Baroni: A fight’s a fight. Doesn’t matter if it’s a ring or a cage. As long as a guy tries to fight you. In Pride, the yellow card rule is a great rule. They have quick stand-ups. In the UFC, the elbows, I could take them or leave them, they’re kind of cheesy. You can really cut someone, you see a fight with a couple of guys, they land an elbow and they have to stop the fight cause of a cut. That rule the UFC needs to change, it’s not a good rule. If you’re going to have elbows, don’t stop fights for cuts. I don’t mind bleeding, a lot of fighters don’t mind bleeding. But getting a guy on the ground and stomping him, kicking him in the face, is more savage, and the more savage a fight, the more it fits my style. I’m a savage. A fight’s a fight. Any rules, no rules, I don’t give a fuck. I’m in it to win, I’ll pull out all the stops.
MMAWeekly: In this tournament coming up, who do you think would be the toughest guy to fight? Is it Dan Henderson?
Phil Baroni: I’m not sure if it’s Dan Henderson. He likes to stand in there and trade and go chin to chin, punch for punch, I don’t think that’s really a contest. I’m not sure who the biggest challenge is. It could be Bustamante cause of experience. Who knows who’s coming out of the other bracket? It just depends on who’s in the best shape, who’s having the best day. I’m not worried about anyone at all. The guy everyone should worry about is me.
MMAWeekly: The top dog in the UFC Middleweight division is Rich Franklin and I know you guys are friends but would you fight him if the opportunity presented itself?
Phil Baroni: We’re real good friends. I’d rather not fight a friend, but it’s a sport, and you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. I just want to be the best.
MMAWeekly: I know we talk MMA, but Ryan Bennett is a big Red Sox fan and I know you’re a big Yankees fan. You have anything to say about the Red Sox.
Phil Baroni: The Red Sox fucking suck. Fuck the Red Sox, that’s all I’ve got to say about the Red Sox.
Phil Baroni returns to the Pride ring in the Bushido 183lb Grand Prix tournament later this month.