(Phil Baroni and Kala Kolohe Hose.)
Yesterday, we reported that middleweight free-agent Phil Baroni had signed a multi-year contract with EliteXC after weighing offers from six different organizations. It now looks like an immediate title-shot could have been a major factor in Baroni’s decision. ICON Sport — the prestigious Hawaii-based MMA organization owned by Pro Elite — announced that it has stripped Robbie Lawler of his middleweight championship belt because of his ongoing inability to defend his title due to injuries, and the vacant title will be on the line in a March 15th fight between Phil Baroni and top ICON contender Kala Kolohe Hose.
Baroni’s last fight was a submission loss to Frank Shamrock at Strikeforce: Shamrock vs. Baroni in June of last year. He’s a veteran of both the UFC and PRIDE, and holds notable wins over Amar Suloev, Ryo Chonan, and Yuki Kondo. Hose (5-1) has won his last four fights by first-round KO/TKO, and defeated Frederic Belleton at last month’s ShoXC Elite Challenger Series. He was originally scheduled to face Lawler for the ICON title in December, but Lawler was forced to pull out, leading to the entire event being canceled.
In an article on TheFightNetwork, Lawler was quoted as saying, “I’m disappointed and upset, but I understand why this happening. In 2007, I did well when I was healthy. I accept the decision, but I promise everyone that I will return. And I will get my belt back.” On his next opponent, Baroni said: “Kala is like a younger version of me. I like him. It’s too bad Lawler was afraid to fight him, but I’m not. I’ve been fighting top guys my entire career, and I’m going to show the Hawaiian fans what a real middleweight champ looks like.”