After 13 years in the business, Phil Baroni is well-acquainted with trips to the minor leagues.
Baroni has fought in just about every promotion of note and some just as easily forgotten during his time in MMA. He’s fought for tens of thousands in the UFC and a fraction of that in Palace Fighting Championships.
When “The New York Baddass” signed to ONE FC, he had low expectations for the quality of the production. He was surprised to find the promotion put on a good show.
It also put him in front of more than a half-million potential viewers with an international TV deal that broadcast ONE FC to 28 Asian countries.
“I didn’t feel like I took a step down,” Baroni told MMAjunkie.com Radio (www.mmajunkie.com/radio). “I was still in a big show.”
Not only that, but the promotion’s international focus brought him to markets where fans weren’t inundated with MMA events and thus had greater appreciation of the fighters.
In his rise and fall in the UFC, Baroni had become used to the constant criticism that comes with the job. When ONE FC took him Singapore or the Philippines, he had a chance to start anew.
“(They don’t) idolize us, but put us on a pedestal and not just look to rip us apart,” said Baroni (15-16). “It makes you feel good about yourself. They definitely appreciate the fighters and the sport.”
On Friday, he makes his third appearance for promotion, fighting Nobutatsu Suzuki (9-1-2) on the main-card of “ONE FC 9: Rise to Power,” which takes place at SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City, Philippines. The seven-bout card streams via online pay-per-view.
Suzuki makes his promotional debut after a long stint in Japan’s ZST, where he racked up an 8-0-2 record before a loss to UFC vet Keita Nakamura in another regional player this past December.
After bouncing between Las Vegas and San Jose, Calif., Baroni has made the latter his full-time home as a member of American Kickboxing Academy.
He said he’ll be looking forward to seeing the enthusiasm in the faces of the crowd.
“I always give my all,” Baroni said. “I don’t try to be politically correct; I just say how I feel. I think a lot of people like that. I’m a regular guy.”
For more on “ONE FC 9: Rise to Power,” stay tuned to the MMA Rumors section of the site.