Photo by Anton Tabuena
In his guest blog for Bloody Elbow, Phil Baroni talks about taking on his DREAM-GLORY NYE opponent in Hayato Sakurai under ONE FC rules. The NYBA says it's now or never, and will be looking to close out 2012 with back-to-back soccer kick knockout wins.
I have about two hard weeks at AKA to finish my prep after this weekend. My weight's good, and I'm at around 190 lbs now. I can make 170 tomorrow if I wanted to, but I'd like to lose a few lbs just to make things easy.
I was 185 lbs before my last fight and I felt I had a really good performance last time out in . It was a big and much needed win for me. I felt good. I was really confident going in. I did the work and felt ready. My preparation for the fight was the best I've had in years and it showed.
I'm facing Mach Sakurai on that DREAM-GLORY-ONE FC New Year's Eve show in Japan. I haven't really taken off time or missed a beat since my last fight and I've been relatively healthy and injury free.
It's about time to up my preparation, to focus and put my head down for the next two weeks. I'm in perfect working order. I just need to focus and up the intensity for the next few weeks.
I'm excited to fight on New Years. It wasn't too long ago that a New Year's Eve card in Japan was the creme de la creme of fight cards in MMA.
DREAM is an established promotion and ONE FC is the leader in South East Asia promoting Mixed Martial Arts. The K-1 guys are back and will be having a tournament to crown a champion for the new kickboxing big leagues, the Glory World Series. I believe this card will be huge in Asia and especially in Japan.
I have also just found out that my fight will be under ONE FC rules and I truly believe that's beneficial to me.
Those rules are how I basically grew up fighting. A head kick to a downed opponent got me thrown out of Massapequa High School, but that's also how I established myself as a fighter in PRIDE. It's also how I showed ONE FC that I'm still a contender.
I'm fighting Sakurai. He's a pioneer in MMA and a legend in Japan, but I am not missing Christmas with my wife and family just to fly over and get an autograph from a Japanese legend. I'm heading to Japan to kick ass. To show that I am truly back on track. That picking up and moving from Vegas to the Bay wasn't just for the weather or a change in scenery.
I've been training hard at AKA. The team is the strongest it has ever been and it's at full strength. We have a lot of guys preparing for big fights, with Cain's UFC Heavyweight Championship being the biggest. We have Swick ready to go 2-0 in his UFC comeback and the team is rallying since Captain Jon Fitch's big win in Rio.
Everyone on the team is tough, and I have guys to work with that are better than me in just about every area. So you can say in the least that I'm being pushed just by being in the room.
My last win went a bit under the radar with all the big UFC and Strikeforce fights going on around here, but in reality, the only one who needs to know I have a big fight coming up is me. I will be alone in the ring once that bell rings, so I'm the only one who has to know really.
It's now or never for me, and I sure don't like the sound of 'never'.
I knew that going into my last fight. I'm not stupid, and I've been around the block more than once. It's time to put up, but I'm not big on shutting up. I need wins if I want to keep being listened to, and that's the bottom line.
I'm 36 years old. Although that sounds old and I'm considered the old guard, the Last of the Mohicans or the last of the pioneers, Chuck Lidell was 36 when he first won UFC Gold. Henderson is over 40 and has looked the best he has ever been on his last few fights. Shogun Rua and B.J. Penn are still going strong, and could be a win away from title contention again.
I'm not comparing myself to those guys, but being 36 these days isn't that old if you're keeping fit between fights and improving your skills. I'm honestly a better fighter than I was when I was 27. That age is supposed to be your prime, but I'm a much better fighter today.
I'm just as strong, but I'm also more fit, and I'm now in the correct weight class for my frame. I am also a lot healthier. I'm blessed, honestly. I'm a lot less injured than I was back in the day and its not because I'm training smarter. I'm honestly training harder and more consistently than I ever have in the past, and those are all things that are going to contribute to me performing better than ever.
So let's just say I'm feeling good and I'm going to peak in the next two weeks before I leave for Japan.
I'm going to diet harder, run more, and spar harder. I'm also going to compete a lot harder in the room. I'm going to try and win on every go, in every situation. That's what I mean by picking up my training, picking up the intensity.
Sakurai is tough. He fought for titles in the UFC, PRIDE, DREAM and Shooto. He is really good. I know this and I will come into the fight ready. I'm looking to make this 2 wins in a row by KO to close out 2012.
-NYBA Phil Baroni