UFC has done a masterful job of taking over the pay-per-view world from boxing and wrestling. But there's still one thing mixed martial arts is short on and that's the villian. Vince McMahon has always gotten it. You need to tug on the 'hate' string to work fans into a frenzy. The top pro wrestlers are so talented that they can switch from fan favorite to heel several times without missing a beat. I'd love to see more MMA fighters embrace the heel role.
Ken Shamrock has done it a little bit for the Kimbo Slice fight this weekend. Tito Ortiz extended his career several fights by taking on the heel role. Matt Serra seems to like being the villian in pushing his 2009 fight against Matt Hughes. Those names are currently or were all supremely talent fighters. The true heel makes himself into a money making fighter even though his abilities are mediocre.
Phil Baroni is only 13-10 but he can still get a solid payday anywhere in the world. Between the beaded robes, the silly dancing, the accent and trash talking, the guy did nice job of turning the majority of fans and media against him.
I'll admit that I laughed my rear off when Frank Shamrock took him apart and Matt Lindland repeatedly schooled him on the ground.
But there's been a funny metamorphosis in 2008 for the 'New York Badass.' His career hit rock bottom after the Shamrock loss in June of 2007 when he was suspended for a positive steroid test and then on the comeback he suffered embarrassing losses in Hawaii to Kala Hose and on CBS to Joey Villasenor earlier this year.
Baroni made a smart decision, instead of being stubborn and trying to continue battling much bigger fighters at 185, he decided to move welterweight, a much more natural weight for a guy who only goes 5-foot-10. Give Baroni credit, for a former musclehead who years ago insisted on trying to fight at 205, he had to swallow his pride to make the move down.
He's also winning over fight fans recently by being the busiest fighter in the business. He just reeled off three wins in 10 weeks. I wonder how many fans joined me in actually being disappointed to hear Baroni wouldn't be able to go for a fourth straight win this weekend at Strikeforce in Denver. MMANews reported over the weekend that Baroni suffered a cut in his win against Olaf Alonso at PFC 10. He'll be out at least a month. Here's rooting for him to come back and make some good matchups at welterweight to close out the year.
Photo via Sherdog.com