View Full Version : Phil Baroni Interview (1st since Landless situation)

01-12-2004, 12:38 PM
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Inside Fighting.com - Between Rounds (http://www.InsideFighting.com)

Less than two months ago, Phil Baroni acted without thinking. Phil made a mistake. It was a big mistake that heís still paying for today. Because of that mistake, the Department of Athletic Regulations for the Mohegan Sun held an emergency session just moments after the fight and revoked Philís license and fined him $5,000. Of course, Nevada quickly announced that it would honor the Mohegan Sunís decision. None of that is in contention. Those are the facts. But that is not the whole story.

What is in controversy is the severity of the punishment, and the apparent rush to judgment by the Mohegan Sun. Did they act fairly by holding an emergency meeting and rendering a decision while emotions were still high? Is revoking his license rather than a short-term suspension really justice in this case? Will the penalty be reduced in an appeal? Some of those questions will be answered after an almost certain appeal by Baroni. But they cannot answer the obvious questions on everyoneís mind. Whatís Phil Baroniís side of the story?

InsideFighting: Phil, itís good to hear from you. Howís life been since UFC 45?
Phil Baroni: Man, lifeís been tough. Itís like theyíre always saying in fighting. When youíre winning, everyone wants to be there to pick you up and be around you. And when **** like this happens, youíre left by yourself to pick up all the pieces. Thatís what Iíve been doing Ė picking up the pieces.

IF: I understand that youíve had your license revoked (but can reapply in 1 year) due to the unfortunate situation that occurred after the stoppage in the Tanner fight. I also understand that you plan to appeal your suspension to try and get it reduced, so you may not be able to answer this question. But what was going through your mind when the referee, Larry Landless, stopped the fight?

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PB: Dude, to be honest with you, I donít really remember everything. I can only say what I remember, and Iím not going to make up a story for what I donít remember. Okay? I just remember, for some reason, thinking that he was really going to stop the fight. I was basically scared to death that he was going to stop the fight because that was the last thing that I wanted. I wasnít in any trouble whatsoever. I remember that. All I was afraid of was the fight getting stopped. Honestly, I donít remember the exact words going back and forth. I donít remember what he said exactly or what I said exactly. And I donít remember anything after the whole situation. Obviously, Iíve seen the tape and I know what happened. Iíve seen what transpired. To be honest with you, I donít know what I was thinking or trying to do at that point. I donít believe in any shape or form that I was trying to hurt him. I donít know what I was doing. Iím sorry for what happened. I wasnít in a good state of mind at that time, and I guess my emotions got the best of me.

IF: Honestly, I was shocked that Landless was trying to talk to you during the action. Granted, Iíve seen boxing referees ask fighters if they want to continue, but itís always during a break or after a knockdown. But Iíve never seen a referee ask questions while a fighter is defending himself. Is that the first time a refereeís ever talked to you during the action?
PB: No. Iíve been in a trouble a little bit in other fights before. McCarthy was a referee in one of those fights and he told me that youíve gotta move Ė ďyouíve gotta move!Ē So I just move. But he never tried to have a conversation with me. You know, after I got kneed by Amar Suleov, he asked me if I needed a minute. I said ďno, Iím good.Ē So itís like you said, only after a break in the action when someone is hurt, like when someoneís getting up from a count or something like that, has a referee asked me if I wanted to continue. And Iíve always said ďyes.Ē But Iíve never been in any other situation where I felt the need to answer the referee during the action. But when Larry Landless was asking me whatever he was asking me Ė I really donít remember what he was asking me Ė I just felt like I really needed to answer him.

IF: Were you hurt at all by any of the blows by Tanner at that point?
PB: No, I was not hurt at that point. Well, my feelings were hurt after the fight was stopped. But thatís about it.

IF: Did you know how much time was left during the round when Tanner got the mount?
PB: Yeah, I did. I did something stupid, and Iím mad at myself for doing it. I heard his corner yell ďshort time,Ē which is basically a wrestling term for when thereís not much time left in the round. My arms were kind of tired at that point for some reason. I donít know why because I trained really hard for the fight. But my arms were kind of tired at that point, so kind of let him get the takedown. I didnít really fight the last takedown like I fought all the other takedown attempts. I thought Iíd just hold him in my guard, ride out the round, and knock him out in the next round. But somehow he passed my guard, and I donít know how. Iíve watched the tape a thousand times. Iíve watched the tape with my coach, Mark Laimon and everyone else. And I still donít know how he passed my guard. It was terrible. Thatís a bad way to let someone pass your guard and get mounted. But I was still fine. Hey, I believe this is the toughest sport in the world, so letís keep it that way. If you want to quit, all you have to do is tap out. If you want out, thatís your way. Itís that simple! Thatís the way the sport is supposed to be. Itís supposed to be that way, and to soften it would be to lose the sport. You have the ability to tap out. If I wanted to get out of there, I would have tapped. Thereís no reason to talk. It was even brought to my attention that Joe Silva himself stated that the refs have been told not to talk to the fighters during the fight.

IF: Thatís an interesting point. Do you think that with all the talk and focus on bringing MMA to a more mainstream audience that maybe the referees are starting to stop the fights a little too early compared to a few years ago?
PB: Maybe. Maybe thatís good too. No, certainly thatís good. But that stoppage was ridiculous, in my mind. In my mind, it was ridiculous. I wasnít hurt in anyway when he stopped the fight.

IF: Although I canít remember the source, I think I read somewhere that Larry said he would have let the fight continue had you not made an aggressive move toward him because he felt he made a mistake. How do you feel about that statement?
PB: I heard that too, actually. Iím not sure if he said that or if itís a rumor. He never told me that personally. So itís hard to say if he would have restarted the fight or not. Thatís like him admitting that he messed up. But you never know because Larry is a nice guy, so he might have restarted the action, especially knowing me like he does. The UFC is like a traveling family Ė you have the same referees at every show, so we see each other all the time. So he knows that I donít quit. Itís just not me. If I quit in that situation, that would be the last fight I would ever fight. Thatís for sure. Itís just not me. You know, people nowadays use the phrase a lot, ďthis guy is a warrior.Ē Iím not saying Iím a warrior or anything like that. Iím just saying that Iím not a quitter. I wouldnít quit in that situation or any situation. Iíve never quit anything in my life. So I was just upset. I was in front of my hometown, and to make me look like I verbally tapped out was completely ridiculous.

IF: How long did you train for the Tanner fight?
PB: Well, I got cleared on August 1st. Actually, I basically cleared myself to start training on August 1st. I couldnít even lift a 5 pound pink dumbbell to do a bench press, you know? So I was pretty weak to start the training. But I felt like I was in good shape for the fight. But I felt like I made a lot of mistakes during my preparation. Actually, you know, Iím not going to make any excuses. Iím not going to take anything away from Evan Tanner. He showed a lot of heart and put up a great fight. So Iím not going to make any excuses about my preparation for that fight. But I learned a lot about preparing for fights. I learned what to do and what not to do, and who to listen to and who not to listen to.

IF: Speaking of your pec tear, are you back to 100% today? Or do you still feel the effects of the tear?
PB: Again, without taking anything away from Evan Tanner or his performance, no, man. Doctors told me I wouldnít be able to train full bore for a year after the surgery. Yet, I was fighting after 8 months. So is it 100% today? No, itís not 100%. Iím not 100%. For example, during sparring with Chuck Liddell and stuff like that, I knew that I wasnít at the point where I was before the injury. But I felt that I was good enough to beat Evan Tanner, so I took the chance. Honestly, I needed the money. Thatís where I was at, and I needed the money. So I took the fight.

IF: Off the subject, but since you brought up the subject of money, letís talk about that. As you know, Rich Franklin recently went over to Inoki Bom-Ba-Ye to fight for an increased paycheck. Forget your suspension and other things preventing you from fighting at the moment. Have you ever, or would you ever consider going after the money and fighting in Japan?
PB: Iím friends with Rich Franklin. Weíre pretty good friends. We always talk and stuff. We talked at the UFC when he fought Evan Tanner and I was doing the broadcast. Weíve been friends ever since. We keep in contact by phone and always talk at all the UFCs. So in his situation, I donít know. Heís older than me, and he has a wife. So itís different. I want to fight in the UFC. I want to be recognized in the UFC. I want to be recognized by the American fans. I donít want to fight in Japan and have nobody know about it. Do you know what I mean? Iím loyal to the UFC. They gave me my chance, my start, and theyíve supported me through all my ups and downs.

IF: Certainly. You want to be a household name in the UFC.
PB: Exactly. I want to be recognized in the US, not in Japan. Money is not the reason that I fight. I have a college degree and whatnot. If I wanted to make money, Iíd do something else. All these other fighters want to be rich and famous, but thatís not why you should fight. Youíre not going to be rich in the UFC or any other US organization. I do it for pride and honor. I do it to prove everything to myself. I donít to it for anything else. I know Iím not going to be rich fighting. I didnít come into it with that expectation. You know, other guys want to be movie stars and stuff, and thatís all fine and good. If you want to parlay your fighting career into the movies, more power to you. But I donít see it happening. You know, all the bodybuilders want to be Arnold Schwartzenegger. But thereís only one Arnold Schwartzenegger. Do you feel me?

IF: Definitely.
PB: You know, I think that I could be a movie star if I wanted to be a movie star. But thatís not my goal. I donít want that. But if anybody could be that guy, I think I could be that guy. But I have no desire to do that. I just want to fight and become a champion. My goal is to be the UFC champion of the world, an undisputed champion.

IF: Speaking of championships, how does it make you feel to know that Zuffa basically has no short term plan for the middleweight championship? Itís like they put the belt on the pay no mind list after Bustamante left.
PB: Yeah, man. It sucks. But thereís really no standout champion at 185 right now. I really donít feel that there is right now. I think that Bustamante was, but he took a gamble on his career the way Rich Franklin did. But he ended up with the short end of the stick. I feel that I could be that guy. If I fight the way that I know I can fight. And if I beat the guys that Iím supposed to beat, then there would be a reason to make a belt in that division. But the way guys are now, they arenít loyal to the organization. They just fight for money. So I can see why the UFC doesnít want champions. How do you break a UFC contract? Win a belt! How do you get out of a UFC contract? Win a title! Thatís a little joke among fighters.

IF: Is the Tito Ortiz holdout and contract situation the root of that little joke?
PB: Right. You have Tito Ortiz. The UFC has been nothing but good to that guy. I wish the UFC had paid for my surgery the way they did for Tito and Ken Shamrock. Of course, I'm not saying I'm Ken Shamrock right now, I think if anyone can take his place it would be me. You know, a mainstream, breakout kind of fighter like Ken Shamrock. But Iíve got to scramble around to get $5000 to pay for this lawyer. Iím scrambling around for that money, which is ridiculous. Iíve fought for over $90,000 for the UFC. And I believe that I did $90,000 worth of work. But because of the injury, the loss, the fine and everything else, I canít even pay this lawyer to see if I can be reinstated or not. I donít know. Itís just frustrating, man. Itís really frustrating. Iím just a guy who just wants to fight. I want nothing more than to fight. Iím a fighter, and Iím not trying to do nothing more than that. Iím not trying to trick anyone or fool anyone or trying to get anything that I donít deserve. But I feel like I keep coming up on the short end of the stick. Itís frustrating, you know? Iím sure there are a lot of other guys in other places in life who do a lot of work and donít get any reward, but it sucks! [We both laugh]

IF: Have you had any discussions with Dana White or anyone else at Zuffa since the incident? If so, have they been supportive toward you at all?
PB: The UFC has been very supportive Ė as much as they can be Ė with this situation. Theyíre sending their lawyer to help me and my lawyer file an appeal of the punishment. You know, Dana has tough love for me. He puts me in there with all the toughest fighters at my weight. I donít get any gimmie fights. He does the same thing with Chuck Liddell. We fight only the toughest guys. So maybe itís not such a good idea to be homies! [laughs] I consider him and Joe Silva as friends outside of fighting. But when it comes to business, itís tough love and even tougher opponents, like I said. All in all those guys have done a lot for the sport. I owe them my livelihood.

IF: So whatís the goal with the appeal?
PB: To get my punishment changed to a 3-month suspension, so that I can fight on the April card in Las Vegas.

IF: After the Tanner fight, you were very emotional. Your apology at the press conference seemed very genuine. How did the other fighters react to you that night and since that night?
PB: I think a lot of the fighters support me. How are they supposed to act in that situation? Fighters who are my friends support me. Thereís one fighter in particular whoís a real piece of ****. Heís the only fighter whoís come out publicly and said that I got what I deserved, I could have gotten more and stuff like that. But heís just a jealous piece of ****, you know? I donít give a **** about him and I donít think anyone else does either. But most of the fighters have been supportive. Iíve probably gotten calls from just about everyone who has my number. They all called me and said that it was bull**** they all felt badly for me. I donít need anyone to feel bad for me. But a lot of the fighters feel that my punishment was too harsh. Granted, I was out of line, and I should be punished. But to take a manís livelihood away from him for a year is very, very harsh in my opinion. You know, a lot of guys called me and that made me feel a little better about the whole thing though. At least I didnít lose anything in the eyes of my peers.

IF: So is it your understanding that youíre precluded from fighting outside of the country as well?
PB: Yeah, Iím ****ed. If I fight outside of the country, Iíll be suspended in America indefinitely. Promotions like Pride are trying to come to America, so theyíre not going to sign me either. If I fight outside of the country, Iíd be shooting myself. I wonít be able to fight here anymore.

IF: In closing, is there anything that youíd like to say to your fans out there? You know, there are two distinct classes of fans out there. The ones who love Phil Baroni, and the ones who love to hate Phil Baroni. Whatís your message to the fans?
PB: Iím in a tough situation, but Iím not going to give up. You know, they always say that you fall down 7 times, but you stand up 8 times. And thatís just the bottom line. If thereís not pain and suffering required to reach a goal, then, in my mind, you wonít really feel the joy you feel when you reach it. Thatís how I feel. Itís been a long hard fight this whole way. But when I win a title, after going through all this turmoil, it will be worth it. It will be worth it. Above all, I thank the fans that support me. I know I'd be nothing with out them and their support. You know, I donít portray myself as a role model nor do I try to be one, but if there is one thing I can offer to people that are struggling itís to NEVER GIVE UP! Tough times donít last tough people do.

IF: One last question. You know, Phil, something that really shocked me when I first met you was the difference between your UFC persona and you as a person away from the ring. Youíre a larger than life personality in the ring, but very respectful and humble outside of it. Whatís that all about?
PB: What you see is what you get with me. There are definitely two sides to Phil Baroni. Most people only get to see the kill or be killed side of me. Iím a lot different when Iím training for a fight or actually fighting. Thereís a whole different side of me that comes out. When its fight time, Iím in a different state of mind. All Iím focused on is the fight and everything else is incidental. So people typically donít get to see how I am on a regular day-to-day basis. I do a lot of charity and volunteer stuff, but why talk about that? I donít do that to get recognition. I do that out of my heart. In fact, I donít want people to know that side of me. Thatís my business. That's for my family and close friends to see. All I want the fans to know and respect is that Iím a game fighter. That I fight till the end with the will to win. I gave up a long time ago trying to make everyone like me. I know thatís never gonna happen. All I want from the public is to be known as a tough kid thatís all heart, and like me or not Iíll always be cared about one way or the other. So they will pack the arena to see me battle. Why? Because they always know I will bring excitement and show gameness. Feel me?

IF: No doubt. Well, thank you for being so candid with us. I certainly appreciate it.
PB: No problem. Thank you for your support. It was good talking to you.

01-12-2004, 01:45 PM
Originally posted by Daisy Dukes
I think a lot of the fighters support me. How are they supposed to act in that situation? Fighters who are my friends support me. Thereís one fighter in particular whoís a real piece of ****. Heís the only fighter whoís come out publicly and said that I got what I deserved, I could have gotten more and stuff like that. But heís just a jealous piece of ****, you know? I donít give a **** about him and I donít think anyone else does either. But most of the fighters have been supportive.

Who's he talking about? Tito?

01-12-2004, 01:54 PM
Very good read. I think the punishment was kind of harsh, espically because it was done in the heat of the moment.

A 3-6 month suspention seems more fitting than a indefinite suspention

Curly Howard
01-12-2004, 02:12 PM
Originally posted by Allan the Magic Goose
Very good read. I think the punishment was kind of harsh, espically because it was done in the heat of the moment.

A 3-6 month suspention seems more fitting than a indefinite suspention

If it would have stopped after the first punches I would agree but he went after him again. The second attack wasn't "heat of the moment" it was anger.
You have to set a standard. Hands off the ref. I like Phil's fighting style but you have to draw the line on ref safety.

01-12-2004, 02:25 PM
"My arms were kind of tired at that point for some reason. I donít know why because I trained really hard for the fight. But my arms were kind of tired at that point, so kind of let him get the takedown."

Got Juice?

Whoremaster B
01-13-2004, 12:50 PM
I think " the piece of ****" is Matt Linland.

01-13-2004, 05:28 PM
i doubt it was lindland. their beef was just hype before the 2nd fight. after that, phil had nothing but nice things to say about him.
either way, awesome ****in interview. phil's a good guy.

01-13-2004, 06:25 PM
My guess is that he's talking about Tito or maybe even Ricco. Both of those guys won't be coming over to Baroni's apartment for marinara and meatballs any time soon.