Back in 2009, I covered UFC 106 in Las Vegas for my previous employer.
I don't remember many specifics about the event. Looking back on the card, I remember that Josh Koscheck absolutely starched Anthony Johnson in the co-main event, while Forrest Griffin did just enough to earn a split-decision over the returning Tito Ortiz.
The card was supposed to be headlined by Brock Lesnar vs. Shane Carwin, but Lesnar pulled out due to a mysterious illness that would eventually spell the end of his days as an active fighter.
Oh, and this was the event where Karo Parisyan went off the deep end, emotionally speaking, and was cut after pulling out of his fight with Dustin Hazelett. He was never the same again.
The one thing I'll never forget from this event, though, was interviewing Phil Baroni prior to his fight with Amir Sadollah.
Much like everyone else, I'd always enjoyed Baroni. His promotional work alongside Frank Shamrock building up their Strikeforce fight in 2007 was a thing of beauty, even if his career record of 10-7 (prior to the Shamrock fight) had already indicated that he wasn't a top-level fighter or anything close to that.
I talked to Baroni briefly, two days before his fight, and I cannot help but remember how difficult it was to understand what he was saying. I'd ask him a question, and he'd give me a long and winding answer that I couldn't decipher.
I knew I'd have to go back and listen to my digital recording of the interview a few times before I was fully able to transcribe what Baroni was saying, and even then, I might not get it totally correct.
That was in 2009. Since then, Baroni has gone 2-6 for a total career record of 15-17.
But it isn't just the record that concerns me. Take a look at this list of Baroni's losses since he returned to the UFC in 2009, and tell me what stands out:
Loss to Amir Sadollah by unanimous decision.
Loss to Brad Tavares by knockout, round 1.
Loss to Yoshiyuki Yoshida by unanimous decision.
Loss to Chris Holland by knockout, round 2.
Loss to Hayato Sakurai by unanimous decision.
Loss to Nobutatsu Suzuki by TKO, round 1.
Baroni's latest loss to Suzuki at One FC 9 is officially listed as due to TKO by injury, but that doesn't really tell the whole story. Baroni injured his ankle, sure, but he was being absolutely blasted with strikes, much like he has been for the majority of his fights over the last six years.
There was a time when watching Baroni take five punches to deliver two giant ones was entertaining, when it didn't fill me with dread or make me feel like I was doing something wrong by watching what's unfolding on my television or computer screen.
Those days are over.
When Chuck Liddell was forced into retirement by Dana White, we breathed a collective sigh of relief. We loved watching Liddell fight, but it became clear near the end that he'd taken too many punches over the course of his legendary career. His speech was slurred, and he collapsed under the weight of punches that would've made him smile and press forward five years before.
Should Phil Baroni retire?
Liddell had someone looking out for him. Baroni does not.
He doesn't have a promoter that cares about him enough to tell him—for his own good—that it's to stop fighting and find something else to do. All he has are promoters around the world that don't give a damn what happens to him in the future. They don't care if he ends up with severe head trauma from repeated blows to the head. They don't care if he ends up needing a full-time nurse by the time he's 50 years old because he cannot take care of himself any more.
The only thing they care about is making a buck.
As long as Baroni has a name, terrible promoters will continue to use him, to send him to their cage or ring to get knocked out with no regard for the terrible act they are enabling. According to these tweets from Baroni, he's nowhere close to figuring all of this out on his own:
I still got One Wheel mother fuckers. Ill be back! #neversaydie— phil baroni (@philbaroni) June 3, 2013
It aint over till its over.— phil baroni (@philbaroni) June 3, 2013
Baroni says "it ain't over until it's over." But the truth is that it's been over since he fought Shamrock nearly six years ago—Baroni just doesn't recognize it.
I'd like to say that maybe fight promotions around the world will stop enabling him at some point, but we all know that isn't true. They don't care about Baroni or his health or his future, and they'll keep giving him a check to go out and get punched in the face until he's been irreversibly damaged.