Phil Baroni: Psychological Warfare (video included)

(Baroni rests up while training at AKA. Photo by Paul Thatcher)
(Baroni rests up while training at AKA. Photo by Paul Thatcher)

By FIGHT! contributor Matt Burosh

The U.S. Department of Defense defines psychological warfare as,“The planned usage of propaganda and other psychological actions havingthe primary purpose of influencing the opinions, emotions, attitudes and behavior of hostile foreign groups in such a way as to support the achievement of national objective.”

But change a few words and you would be presented with the pre-fight strategy of the self-proclaimed “New York Bad Ass,” Phil Baroni, a man who aims to do as much damage with his mouth as he does with his heavy right hand. Baroni’s trash talk and flashy entrances have made him loved and loathed, depending on who you talk to, but one wonders about his motivations when one learns that the profession he planned to pursue was not sport fighting but psychology.

The “New York Bad Ass Phil Baroni” graduated from Central Michigan University with a degree in psychology and perhaps his pre-fight gamesmanship isn’t an honest reflection of his personality as much as it is consciously constructed psychological warfare. Take, for instance, this single statement by Baroni.

“Not much to say,” said Baroni about his June 6 opponent Joe Riggs. “Joe is 25, 26-years-old and he’ll have his day. But June 6th I’m knocking him the [expletive] out. I’m gonna [expletive] him up bad and bust him up the whole [expletive] fight. It’s up to him how long he wants to last. If he wants to last one round or if he wants to last three, I’m gonna [expletive] him up in under 15 minutes.”

1. “Joe is 25, 26-six-years old and he’ll have his day…”

Having repetitively referred to Riggs as a “kid,” Baroni hoped to exert influence over Riggs’ self-esteem. This could cause Riggs to either subconsciously lose confidence or upset him enough to fight an aggressive and unintelligent fight in order to prove himself.

2. “…But June 6th I’m knocking him the [expletive] out. I’m gonna [expletive] him up bad and bust him up the whole [expletive] fight…”

Consistently asserting the inevitability of victory, Baroni hopes to implant the idea in his opponent and make him feel like he’s lost before the contest even begins. Also, Baroni’s repetitive positive message reassures his own self-schema.

3. “…[#$@*&^%#!)*%!]…”

Lastly, the coarse delivery of Baroni’s message—namely frequent and forceful use of the word “fuck”— is a violation of folkway norms, which is a guide for behavioral norms in given society. Violations of these norms can result in shock and discomfort, forcing those around Baroni, including his opponent, to take reactionary positions.

Baroni has neither admitted nor revealed any strategy in his pre-fight tactics, saying on that, “What you see is what you get.” Determining whether or not that’s true is better left to the real headshrinkers.

Strikeforce: Lawler vs. Shields will be televised live on Showtime at 10 p.m. ET/PT (delayed on the West Coast).

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