Phil Baroni Raises an Important Question, 'Where Do Old Fighters Go to Die?'
Retirement. It’s a word that becomes an elephant in the room for many aging fighters as their careers dwindle down. Fans are often quick to say a fighter should retire, but as any fan of the sport will tell you, it’s much more difficult for a fighter to accept that it’s time to move on.
Phil Baroni is a guy who has heard the word retirement come up quite a bit when discussing his career. “The New York Bad Ass” has been competing in MMA since 2000, and at age 37, still has the same desire that he had in his 20s. It’s that competitive spirit that’s kept Baroni going through the sport, even after hitting some low points in his career.
Baroni spoke to Jack Brown of the UG about his career and gave some pretty good insight—like Dana White telling Baroni that he should retire after he was initially cut from the UFC—but there was a question posed by Baroni that resonates with a number of veteran MMA fighters.
Baroni has asked what being a fighter has meant to him.
“It has become my identity. I don’t know what the f--- I’m going to do when I’m done. Where do old fighters go to die?” (MixedMartialArts.com)
It’s a question that I’m sure a number of veteran fighters contemplate on a daily basis. Not every veteran has a bank account full of money or a comfy desk job to fall back on. For guys like Baroni, fighting isn’t just a sport, but a way of life.
When you’ve been doing something you’re whole life it’s all you know. And competing in MMA doesn’t give you many skills that translate well into “civilian life.” Sure you know how to diet and exercise but how’s that going to help you with a nine-to-five day job?
It’s part of the reason we see so many guys of “the old guard” still fighting to collect a paycheck long after they should’ve hung up their gloves.
MMA is all these fighters know, and many of them don’t have a background in finances, so any money that they made is likely long gone by the time they truly need it.
The answer to Baroni’s question is a bit of irony, in that old fighters go to die exactly where they became some of the toughest men on the planet; on the battlefield.
Many veterans will run both their body and their mind into the ground like an old Chevy before choosing to step away from the sport. Whether it be for one last run at fame or for financial reasons, so often fighters keep going past the threshold of safety.
So what’s the solution for these aging vets of the sport who don’t get the comfy desk job after stepping away?
The first line of responsibility has to go to the fighter themselves.
It’s not a promoter’s job to handle your assets and force you to save some of the money you make. Saving a dollar here and there might seem useless during your 20s and 30s, but by the time you’re over the hill, that saved money can be a life saver.
By being responsible with the money they make, fighters can set themselves up to not be forced into competing when it’s clearly unhealthy for them to do so.
Another solution is something I’d like to see put together by multiple organizations, or perhaps just the UFC (since they’re clearly the top dog in the game).
A transition program would be extremely helpful for both young and old fighters alike.
Professional fighters must devote so much of their life to training and competing that it leaves them without any “real world skills” that can be useful in the job market.
When punching people is all you’ve focused on in your life, wearing a suit and tie just isn’t for you.
The Fighter Summit hosted by the UFC is a great tool and should become an emphasis for not only UFC fighters, but all MMA competitors.
Education is something not associated with MMA or its’ competitors, but by forcing the issue of financial and life responsibility with fighters of all ages, we can finally create a greener pasture for the old guys to ride off to.
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