Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The New York Bad Ass Phil Baroni in Chiang Mai, Thailand

This last week was a very exciting week for Team Quest Thailand. We had the opportunity to host The New York Bad Ass Phil Baroni out here in Chiang Mai. For me personally it was even more exciting because Baroni is somebody I have been a huge fan of since I got into the sport years ago. It’s easy to back a guy that goes out there and gives it his all every single fight. To put it simple, his fights are always exciting to watch.

Baroni came out to Chiang Mai straight after his fight in Japan where he fought Sakurai in a war.  He came out with the best of it in most exchanges and out wrestled Sakurai the entire fight. In my mind he won an easy decision but this is Japan. Baroni went into this fight training for ONE FC rules because that is what he was told the rules were. When he arrived for the fight he learned that there were not only no ONE FC rules but the rules resembled that of a cricket game. No elbows standing, no elbows on the ground, and no soccer kicks.

On top of the last minute rule changes he also learned that although the fight was agreed at 176lbs, the fight was going to be at 168lbs. This means that he had to lose an extra 8 lbs just a day before the fight. Now this is where I gained even more respect for Baroni because even a 1 pound difference can lead to substantial performance issues.

So Baroni arrived late on the night of January 1st  in Chiang Mai and couldn’t find his hotel. He stopped in a random hotel that was just down the street from Team Quest Thailand. The next morning after he got some sleep I headed over to meet up with him and show him the gym. I showed him where his hotel was and gave him a tour of the gym. I felt that he was genuinely impressed and liked it which felt good. He also commented that our mats in our MMA room were better than wrestling mats which I thought was awesome because we did a lot of research before installing them.

So at this time Baroni was still pretty new to Chiang Mai so Alex Branom and I sort of gave him a tour of the city. We drove to the old city (tourist area) which is about a 5 minute drive from the gym and took him to rent a motor bike. I am always scared when a new person gets on a motor bike but Baroni proved to be a Thailand vet. It was nice that he drove motor bikes before.

So after this we got some lunch at a local Thai restaurant. Baroni didn’t know what to order so I suggested some food for him. I purposely ordered some non spicy food because most foreigners can’t handle the spice. Turned out at the end of the trip he was like “Bro I like spicy food, Chiang Mai doesn’t have any.” Looks like I should have ordered him some spicy sum tum.

Over the next bit Baroni trained really hard. I wasn’t really expecting him to train much since he was just coming off a fight but he jumped right in. He had to opportunity to work with all of Team Quest Thailand Trainers. I know he loved them all but I think that he and Kru Joe worked the best together.

Before this trip I didn’t know Baroni personally. One thing that really surprised me was that he was pretty laid back and just down for whatever. I always pictured him as this guy that was super outspoken and sort of “In your face” but it was the complete opposite. Baroni was pretty quiet, relaxed, humble, and ready to take in new experiences. He was also an amazing student. He listened to everything the trainers said. Sometimes these high level fighters have egos and are out just to holiday but Baroni was here to learn and train. Kru Joe told me that he really enjoyed working with him and hoped that he comes back soon.

During his time here Baroni was able to do a lot of tourist activities to like play with the tigers and elephants. He was pretty excited about the tigers. I am personally scared to get in there with them but check out these pictures of him playing with the tigers in Chiang Mai.

On Saturday the 5th Baroni held a seminar for us. I thought this was amazing because we didn’t even ask him to do it, he just offered. I have to say, I have been to quite a few seminars in my day and all have been pretty good, but they didn’t compare to Baroni’s. Baroni gave the best seminar I have ever seen in my life. I think it was the best seminar I have ever seen for a few reasons. 1) Because he showed relevant stuff that students can learn and take away with them to use in the future and 2) because he gave the best detailed instruction on wrestling techniques I have ever seen and I have been around a lot of Olympic wrestlers. I believe if he ever opened up a school he could build a high level team fast. He is a natural coach. He also wasn't afraid to jump in with the students which was awesome for them.

After the seminar we all went out and ate and had a few beers. When I say a few I literally mean 2-3. I am not much of a drinker these days so it was nice to know everyone was on the same page as me. We ended up at some karaoke bar and Baroni said none of us are leaving until we each picked and sang a song. Baroni ended up singing Carly Rae Jepsen “Call Me Maybe”. It was a pretty funny sight seeing him sing it and give a little dance. So after this we headed back and called it a night.

The next day Baroni had to go. We really enjoyed having him out. It was a cool experience for us both because we were fans and also because I learned stuff at his seminar. We are hoping to get him back out soon. Baroni is back at AKA in San Jose and will begin to prepare for his next ONE FC fight soon. Check back soon to find out when Baroni is coming back next.


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