Never one to shy away from putting on a show, the always-entertaining Phil Baroni (13-10 MMA, 3-5 UFC) is seeking a return to the biggest stage in MMA.
"I'm hoping (to return to) the UFC," Baroni recently told TAGG Radio (www.taggradio.com
), the official radio partner of MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com
). "That's where I'd like to fight. That's the biggest show right now. That's where you want to be if you're fighting in America right now. That's where I want to fight."
And while "The New York Bad Ass" left the UFC in 2005 on a four-fight losing streak, the 32-year-old believes this time would be a different story.
"In training, I've seen [my improved conditioning] a lot," Baroni said. "Sparring with guys like (Josh) Koscheck and (Jon) Fitch and (Mike) Swick at AKA, I used to get tired by the third five-minute round. And now I'm doing five, five-minute rounds with those guys. My shape is better."
Baroni credits his improved performance and outlook on a decision to drop from middleweight to 170 pounds.
"I'm basically the same walking-around size that I always was," Baroni said. "In the ring I look the same as I did at 185 (pounds). So I really should have been at this weight all along, I think. I think I would have been better off. I just never thought I could make it. But I made it somehow. I had to make it. And now that I know I can make it, it's not much of a problem."
Baroni had dropped three-straight bouts to Joey Villasenor, Kala Hose and Frank Shamrock before he made the decision to change weight classes. Finding himself with as many career losses as wins left Baroni at a crossroads. Public commentary regarding his performance on the CBS-broadcast fight with Villasenor didn't help, either.
"I was at a gas station one night and some dudes were getting hammered and were getting ready to go drive their car," Baroni said. "And they were like, 'Hey, dude. Nice entrance.' Yeah. Nice entrance. Not even nice fight.
"That wasn't a great moment. I got 'nice entrance' from some drunk dudes at a gas station once. That's all I got from that (fight on national TV)."
Baroni has now won three-straight bouts since the cut. And while performances in the Palace Fighting Championship, Icon Sport and Cage Rage were all rewarding, it is the bright lights of the UFC where Baroni truly hopes to land.
"That's one nice thing about (not being in the UFC), is being to travel and fight all over," Baroni said. "But the exposure isn't the same, and the money isn't the same.
"I really don't want to be a journeyman. I'm not old enough to be a journeyman, or like Dan Severn or something like that. I still think I have some good fights left in me. I can beat anyone on any given day at 170 (pounds). I really do believe that."