Phil Baroni's MMA journey is a bit unbelievable when taken at face value. A fighter who rose out of "tough man" boxing competitions while still competing as an NJCAA All-American wrestler, Baroni was expected to be one of the UFC's new breed of MMA stars coming out of the Dark Ages in the early 2000's. He hit like a truck, looked great, and had that un-quantifiable "it" factor that made people tune in whenever they heard his name. Four straight losses put an end to the hype and got him his walking papers from the UFC.
But, a change of camps and a trip across the Pacific to Japan saw something of a career rejuvenation as Baroni would go 4-2 under the Pride banner, before the promotion shut it's doors in 2007. An up and down couple of years competing for Strikeforce, EliteXC, and smaller regional promotions gave "The New York Badass" a second shot in the UFC (off a loss to Joe Riggs at Strikeforce: Lawler vs. Shields, no less) for another two fights. He went 0-2 for Zuffa that second time around and was quickly back looking for a new promotional home. It looked like he'd found one with ONE FC, fighting in the South Pacific. Now, following a TKO loss due to injury against Nobutatsu Suzuki at ONE FC: Rise to Power, it seems that Baroni will be making his way back to the US.
Baroni's ONE FC deal has included "fighter sharing" opportunities before, his appearance at Dream 18 came while still under contract with the Singapore based promotion. So, it is unclear at the moment as to whether or not he is still under contract with ONE FC. Either way, it's a bit surprising to see Bellator pick up the 37 year old with a 15-17 record, off what appeared to be a bad injury. No potential opponent has been announced for his Bellator debut at this time, but we will be sure to keep you updated as more details become available.
UPDATE: According to MMA Fighting, Baroni has signed to a three fight contract with Bellator and will make his debut against Jesus Martinez. The 8-5 Martinez is coming off back to back losses to George Sullivan and Nah-Shon Burrell.