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The Return of Bare Knuckle Fighting

As American businesses  are adapting to the new COVID reality, many fight organizations are adjusting to new regulations in order to put on fights. The UFC, of course, has been largely leading the way to resuming events. Submission Underground, Fight 2 Win and Third Coast Grappling have been put on submission grappling events within the past month. Even Bellator and ONE FC have events planned before the end of July. As the title of this article implies another promotion joins this list; Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship or simply, BKFC. 

Friday, July 24th, BKFC will host its 11th event in Oxford, Mississippi. The card will be headlined by Issac Vallie-Flagg and Luis “Baboon” Palomino. The co-main event will feature Dillon Cleckler fighting against Frank Tate. Vallie-Flagg, or V-Flagg, is taking the upcoming match with Palomino on two weeks notice after the training camp of Jim Alders had been exposed to COVID.

A post shared by Bare Knuckle FC (@bareknucklefc) on Jul 14, 2020 at 6:52am PDT

Perhaps one of the more shocking realizations for this event is that it’s scheduled to be on American soil with a live crowd. Although Mississippi isn’t one of the main trouble states, how this is allowed to continue in the era of social distancing is a mystery. Perhaps the state has just few enough restrictions to allow a non-team sport to operate like how Florida was able to host the UFC. But, the UFC didn’t have any spectators. Maybe the promoter had to jump through a few hoops in state government? Perhaps there are some friends of bare knuckle boxing in Mississippi’s state government? 

But, such bravery and promotional grit is expected from a promotion that was willing to sign the “Iranian Hulk,” Sajjad Gharibi, to headline a fight that was going to be entitled “USA vs Iran: World War III.” Whichever the case,  it’s scheduled to move ahead with the rest of the card only recently being announced on Monday. 

A post shared by iranian hulk 🇮🇷 (@sajadgharibiofficial) on Apr 25, 2019 at 8:23am PDT

It makes fans and spectators wonder how some of these competitors outside of MMA and conventional boxing gain experience. Is there some kind of underground network of warehouses, inner city clubs and out-of-the-way rustic bars in which regional bare knuckle matches take place? Are there bare knuckle fighters that have bigger reputations than others to be heard about across state lines? Do they stick to weight classes or do unofficial officials just eyeball competitors? Who are the people who spectate these underground fights? Bikers? Normal traffic from the MMA and boxing scenes? Impoverished people in both rural and urban communities? Young millennials with hipster haircuts? Well paid office workers who need a break from their mundane lifestyles?

It may be safe to assume that fights outside of the BKFC are run like the backyard MMA fights you see on YouTube. Of course, some of these questions and suggestions might seem like I’m insulting the BKFC but it’s the opposite. As I have stated in a previous article, the Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship takes the straight forward mentality of MMA and the simplicity of boxing to create a sport that gets back to the root of combat sports. The promotion is bold enough to get straight to the point and give audiences exactly what they want to expect from a conventional boxing match. The rules and judging criteria aren’t made to decide the better boxer, but rather to determine the better fighter. 

Outside of the main event, the rest of the card was announced as recent as Monday. As for the two men actually headlining the card, there can be quite a bit of digging done to find out why their names are fit to headline the promotion’s awaited return.

Luis Palomino, a World Series of Fighting vet, boasts a 26-17 professional record in MMA. The Peruvian fighter has shared the cage with Justin Gaethje, Yves Edwards, and Pat Curran. Meanwhile, having victories over Daron Cruikshank, Jorge “Macaco” Patino and a developing Jorge Masvidal. Palomino has a decision victory in the BKFC against Elvin Leon Brito in the promotion’s most recent event back in February.

Isaac Vallie-Flagg has similar credentials. V-Flagg was also a past MMA vet with fights on Titan FC, Strikeforce and even the UFC where he fought Takanori Gomi, Matt Wiman and boasts a victory over Yves Edwards. V-Flagg has been doing bare knuckle matches since late 2018 and is 3-0 in the sport with his most recent victory nearly a year ago against UFC vet, Melvin Guillard. 

With what seems like a growing card, BKFC fans are sure to receive a refreshing treat coming out of the doldrums of quarantine. This event  might also be an interesting experiment with a live crowd in the age of social distancing in the United States. But as I mentioned before, the BKFC has the courage and boldness to be the experimental, lowbrow to attempt to rise in popularity like mixed martial arts in the 90’s and early 2000’s.

Bare Knuckle FC 11 will broadcast on YouTube, Facebook, the Sports Flick app and The card will begin at 7 pm Central time.■

A post shared by Bare Knuckle FC (@bareknucklefc) on Jul 14, 2020 at 6:52am PDT

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