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Baroni Knew He Would Return to UFC

Lost in the buzz surrounding the Gina Carano vs. Cris Cyborg women's title fight was the news that veteran Phil Baroni signed a new deal with the UFC.

Baroni made his UFC debut at UFC 30 in February 2001, defeating Curtis Stout via unanimous decision. He went 3-5 inside the Octagon, and was released from the organization following his loss to Pete Sell at UFC 51. FanHouse spoke to Baroni via e-mail recently about his surprising return to the UFC. The full interview is below.

Ariel Helwani: How did this deal with the UFC coming about?
Phil Baroni: Strikeforce cut me to re-sign me for less money after my [Joe] Riggs fight -- they offered Erik Apple. I got an offer from the UFC that was much better and I took it.

Were you surprised the UFC had interest in you despite the fact that you lost your last fight?
No. I'm Phil Baroni, and I'm a real fighter. Dana [White] wants real fighters in the UFC.

How long did it take for this deal to get done?

Fast. I agreed to the terms and money without hesitation. [Baroni's agent] Ken Pavia e-mailed me the deal; I signed it, and had my wife fax it while I went for a quick six-mile run.

Did you ever think you would get another shot in the UFC?
Yes. My first MMA fight was in the UFC. I knew I'd be fighting there again someday. All the roads to my goals I set for myself lead to the UFC.

Will you be competing as a welterweight or middleweight?
I'm a true welterweight.

When do you think you will make your UFC return?
ASAP. I want to fight and show people what I am and what I got. I'm a tough little fighter; a real fighter.

Is there one fighter in particular that you would like to fight first?
I'll fight anybody. I've always been that way. I'm not changing that now.

In the press release to announce your release from the organization, Strikeforce wrote that you "sustained a one-sided defeat by way of unanimous judges' decision" against Riggs. Were you surprised they wrote that?
Yes I was. I think it was uncalled for. I don't think it was from Scott Coker.

Were you released from Strikeforce or did you leave on your own?
I was released so I could sign a contract with contenders. I did not want to fight on [the] contenders show for less money, so I signed with the UFC for more.

You've seen your mentor, Mark Coleman, enjoy a career renaissance in the UFC. What would it mean for you to enjoy the same?
I will do the same. I will tell you what it means to me after I do it.

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