by Al Yu – MMAWeekly.com
When Joey Villasenor received a phone call with an offer to fight Phil Baroni, there was no hesitation on his part. The answer was an unequivocal “yes.” The “Dream Smasher” stepped up on short notice and is now set for one of the most significant fights of his career.
“Not one ounce; not one bit of hesitation,” he stated recently on MMAWeekly SoundOff Radio. “Baroni has always been a fight that we’ve been looking forward to and I was just wondering when we were going to cross paths.”
Baroni was originally scheduled to fight former EliteXC middleweight champion Murilo “Ninja” Rua. The Brazilian striker pulled out of the fight due to undisclosed reasons.
“I’ve been in big fights before. I’m not trying to let this get to me too much. It’s just another fight; another human being,” added the former King of the Cage champion.
After serving a six-month suspension by the California State Athletic Commission, Baroni returned to take on Kala Hose for the vacant Icon Sport 185-pound belt. The “New York Bad Ass” started the fight strong, but faded in the later rounds. Unable to intelligently defend himself, the fight was stopped in the fifth and final round. The defeat was Baroni’s second in a row, which included a previous submission loss to Frank Shamrock.
“Phil Baroni and I are definitely known as bangers and we both put it all on the line. I totally respect him coming into this bout; I respect his power and I respect him as a human being,” said Villasenor. “I love fighting and in my opinion I’ve never put on a boring fight. I fight with all my heart and passion for the game and I think Phil is on the same level.”
Villasenor made his EliteXC debut on its inaugural show, defeating former UFC fighter David Loiseau. Four months later, the Jackson’s Submission fighter faced Murilo Rua for the vacant EliteXC middleweight title. Unfortunately, Villasenor’s shot at EliteXC gold was spoiled when the former Chute Boxe fighter defeated him via strikes in the second round. He would rebound with a close decision victory over Riki Fukuda this past September and an impressive knockout of UFC veteran Ryan Jensen in late March.
“Any athlete will tell you that when you perform at your best and you get a finish like that, there’s nothing like it,” commented Villasenor regarding his last fight.
“I think you learn from every fight. I’m an old vet; I’ve been around for a long time. I’ve been working a lot with my coach and my coach has stated that what’s worked for me in the past is working for me right now. I have been working a lot on my combinations and footwork. It’s all coming together. I just want to continue the roll that I’m on and I feel like I continue to get better with every fight.”
He credits much of his success to his coach, Greg Jackson. Based in Albuquerque, N.M., Jackson is the founder of Jackson’s Submission Fighting and has trained many notable fighters including Diego Sanchez, Rashad Evans, former King of Pancrase Nate Marquardt and Roger Huerta. Current UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre spent much of his time preparing at Jackson’s training camp prior to his rematch with Matt Serra.
“He’s a genius,” commented the amateur regional boxing champion. “If you spend a few hours with the guy, you get to see the intelligence that this man has and I believe he’s very credible. Greg is the best at getting the best out of each individual because we’re all different and I think builds off of your strengths and helps protect your weaknesses. He knows how to treat each individual fighter differently and that’s what really separates him from a lot of people.”
In February, ProElite, Inc. and the CBS Television Network announced a multi-year agreement to bring mixed martial arts to the broadcast network. CBS would broadcast four MMA events per year, produced by ProElite’s EliteXC fight division, as two-hour live primetime specials targeted for Saturday nights. The upcoming EliteXC event on May 31 will be the first of the proposed four shows.
“The way the sport’s evolved… to find myself in this position; to have my name announced in front of the whole United States and the world… on that night my family will live forever,” elated Villasenor. “I feel like there’s a certain goal that I’ve met, but I also feel it’s just the beginning, and I’m very excited not only for myself, but I’m also very excited for the sport.”
The stage is set for Joey Villasenor. The Dream Smasher has been given the opportunity to make an impression on potentially millions of viewers when he faces Phil Baroni on May 31.
“I love adversity. Boo me if you want, I really don’t care. All I know is my family and friends back home are watching and supporting me and I’m just going to go out and put the best performance that I can.”