EXCLUSIVE with UFC fighters turned wrestlers: Stephan Bonnar & Phil Baroni

Harry Kettle

MMA is one of the most challenging and wonderful art forms in equal measure, and it requires a special kind of athlete in order to master it. Stephan Bonnar and Phil Baroni, former UFC competitors, have been there and done that – and now it’s time for ‘The Real Shooters’ to test their hand in a different kind of environment.

What environment? Professional wrestling. The two 40+-year-old athletes have reached that point in their career where they realise fighting isn’t a logistical possibility now, meaning they’ve been forced to look elsewhere in search of glory.

Within the Ultimate Fighting Championship these two had varying degrees of success, with Bonnar leading the way with a performance back in 2005 that revolutionised the sport. Honestly, go back and watch the fight against Forrest Griffin from The Ultimate Fighter 1 finale – it changed the sport.

Because of little footnotes like that you can imagine how many times Stephan, and by default people like Phil, have had to hear about their past accomplishments over and over again. As a result of this it seems like the transition into the world of professional wrestling has been a much needed one, with the pair sighting their goals and ambitions throughout the course of our interview.

“I’m not gonna fall off a f*****g ladder through a table. You don’t gotta do it if you don’t want to.” – Stephan Bonnar [SB]

MMA can take you down interesting paths sometimes, as can be the case with wrestling. The contrast between the two sporting ‘activities’ so to speak has drawn a lot of debate from the communities of UFC fans and WWE fans in particular, but it seems as if these two guys aren’t focused on the big leagues right now. Which, in truth, is a smart move on their part.

This hard-edged chat with two guys who have a combined 30 professional MMA victories certainly opened our eyes to the nature of their journey, and we wouldn’t want to be the gentlemen who have to step foot inside the squared circle with The Real Shooters.

In terms of comparisons to other teams in that regard, they’ve set their sights high.

“We’re simple. We’re like a Demolition type of deal.” – Phil Baroni [PB]

“Think Ravishing Rick Rude & The Million Dollar Man.” SB

It’s not like we haven’t seen guys and girls making the same kind of move in the past, either, with names such as Brock Lesnar and CM Punk sticking their necks out on the line in search of greener pastures in the Ultimate Fighting Championship. From the perspective of Bonnar, however, he’s fairly confident about his chances against the Beast in any environment.

“If I’m in the ring with Brock Lesnar, he’s getting tapped out. He’s not gonna be able to stop me.” – SB

Of course in this or any other walk of life quality is the most important attribute above all others, and it definitely seems like this project is in its infancy right now. With Baroni taking Bonnar under his wing so to speak and showing him the ropes, it seems as if the duo have realised that taking bumps night in and night out may not be as fun as was once advertised.

“A lot of these old fighters, they can’t bump. They think it’s easy because it’s ‘not real’ but it’s hard.” – PB

The trials and tribulations associated with professional wrestling often go unnoticed, but the most factor behind this is that Stephan and Phil are more than prepared to take this ‘fight’ to the distance. With dedication and renewed passion on their side, we can expect to see these two intimidating figures for quite some time to come.