Bare-handed boxing is coming to America and it’s gonna get ugly
Unarmed boxing – essentially boxing without gloves – has thrived in the UK for years. Other hand-to-hand combat sports, such as Myanmar’s Lethwei, have become impactful elsewhere for centuries. Yet in modern America, bare-knuckle fighting has been reserved for unauthorized fight clubs, knockout YouTube videos, and vomit-splattered sidewalks in front of bars.
This will change soon, as a new organization, aptly named Unarmed Fighting Champions (BKFC), promotes the first legal night of barehand boxing in the United States since 1889. It all takes place June 2 in Cheyenne, Wyoming.
At a glance, BKFC’s debut show could be a thriller. The event will feature a number of recognizable names, including former UFC heavyweight champion Ricco Rodriguez, former Bellator heavyweight Eric Prindle and former boxer Paul Spadafora. The show is also expected to include what BKFC has dubbed the ‘very first’ women’s hand-to-hand match – although the sport’s dark history makes this difficult to verify – as Bec Rawlings, former strawweight turned flyweight of the ‘UFC, faces boxer Alma Garcia.
Press release after press release, social media post after social media post, BKFC promised that when these fighters step into the ring in Cheyenne, we are going to experience some sort of raw, unbridled action that we are going to experience. not found in traditional boxing. or even MMA.
We’re going to witness a harsh spectacle that no state sporting commission has wanted to touch since the 1800s, when the National Police Gazette magazine staged what is considered the most recent night of legal unarmed boxing. on American soil. We are in something different, say the promoters of the BKFC, something wild, something violent…
If your interest has been piqued, that’s understandable. There is something inherently captivating about the sight of bare knuckles sliding down a cheek or jaw. When that happens, it’s hard to look away. This is surely one of the reasons for the craze of the world for Kevin “Kimbo Slice” Ferguson (RIP), who caught our attention from his early days as a street fighter youtube sensation, in his final chapter as a barely competitive member of the Bellator roster.
While any excitement surrounding BKFC’s first event is absolutely justified, however, the whole show starts to look pretty dark once the microscope focuses. The problem is the motley crew of mixed martial artists and boxers that BKFC has assembled for this inaugural event.
Ricco Rodriguez, for example, who briefly held the UFC heavyweight championship in the heyday of MMA, has recently had a rough time, losing five of his last six fights by TKO.
His last outing was especially tough, as he was knocked out by former UFC middleweight Alex Nicholson in CamSoda Captions, an event that generated moderate buzz for being the first MMA event to be broadcast live on a porn site, and was really as low as MMA can drop while still being viewed as a real sport.
Eric Prindle, meanwhile, who has previously won a heavyweight tournament under the Bellator banner, also went through a rough patch. He has lost six of his last ten MMA fights and drops rapidly to the 0.500 mark, with an overall record of 11-9.
Then there’s Bec Rawlings. In terms of relevance and real ability, Rawlings is undeniably the best mixed martial artist competing on that first BKFB map. She was a member of the UFC roster just two months ago and could easily have found a place in the respected MMA Invicta Fighting Championship Girls’ promotion had she not accepted this offer with her bare hands so quickly. That being said, Rawlings has lost her last four fights, which certainly feels like her best days are behind her.
Finally, there is former boxer Paul Spadafora. Spadafora, who racked up a strong professional record of 49-1 during his career, gained particular notoriety for whooping boxing legend Floyd Mayweather during a training session many years ago.
More recently, however, all of Spadafora’s headlines have centered around his out-of-ring issues, the ugliest of which occurred when he was charged with attempted murder after shooting his pregnant ex-girlfriend. . While he hasn’t exactly shown the signs of a declining fighter, he’s the kind of villainous character most promotions wouldn’t hit with a ten-foot post. And yet, he found a new home at BKFC…
The intention here is not to disparage the fighters who will participate in the first BKFC event. They have all accomplished a lot in the perilous arena of combat sports and will surely be fighting head-to-head, gloves or not, on June 2 in Cheyenne. Nonetheless, it’s hard to deny that the majority of fighters on the bill appear to have passed the point of relevance.
Several, like Rodriguez and Prindle, don’t even seem to have the means to compete in small-scale regional shows, while Spadafora is an outright criminal who would likely struggle to find work in a convenience store in Cheyenne. When you consider this, BKFC suddenly looks less like the exciting next step in the evolution of American pugilism, and more like the sad, bloodstained corner where combat sports careers will curl up and die.
The barehanded promotions that flourished in the UK have played a similar role in the careers of several once-respected boxers and mixed martial artists. Melvin Guillard, for example, who was once one of the top performers in the UFC’s lightweight division, turned to British boxing with his bare hands after losing a long streak of MMA fights. The same goes for Julian Lane – although he was only fundamentally famous for his bizarre testosterone-fueled fusion on The ultimate fighter reality show.
Interestingly, the arrival of unarmed boxing in the United States coincides with a waning interest in MMA. UFC pay-per-views have generated ever-worse sales numbers, while Bellator has hemorrhaged audiences in recent months. All of this is unlikely to be a coincidence.
You can almost imagine a handful of bare-handed boxing fans huddled around a table in a dimly lit Wyoming dive bar, assuring each other in excited whispers that their time is right, that MMA is in. dying and that their beloved glove-less sport is the heir to the throne of combat sports.
Sadly, it’s hard to imagine BKFC gaining significant long-term traction in America. While his debut show, and all the others he promotes on the road, will certainly be quite entertaining, the combination of the inherently brutal nature of hand-to-hand combat and the list of promoting aging legends, washes, and criminals will make it unpleasant to all but the most die-hard of combat sports fans.
In a way, the arrival of hand-to-hand combat in the United States is somewhat reminiscent of XARM, a downright laughable fusion of MMA and tug-of-war that UFC co-founder Art Davie attempted to do. sell us years after leaving the MMA industry. . Davis told us that XARM would be the next big thing, that it would eliminate the less exciting aspects of MMA (like this sacred jiu-jitsu), and give us the kind of frantic action we really want to.
“When I created the UFC, the boxing community and martial artists from karate to taekwondo said it was too brutal and a monster show… a unicorn sport,” Davie said on his blog, which was deleted years ago, and now has a 403 error message for an epitaph.
“Now some in MMA are taking pictures of my new sport, XARM, saying it’s too extreme. Oh, how history repeats itself! What XARM does is take the best three minutes of any MMA fight, remove the ground play, and give fans what they want – raw, uncensored, non-stop action! Take off and go up to the table! “
In an outing on the official BKFC websiteCompany president and former boxer David Feldman says something quite similar, saying his promotion will usher in “a new era in combat sports” and crown “the best pure striker on the planet.”
While it’s certainly possible that BKFC will accomplish both of these things, it seems more likely that the promotion will become the last flash in pugilism, as a host of aging and declining fighters kill each other in still disrepair. larger, swapping out what’s left of their bruised brain tissue. for the paychecks and the howls of a bloodthirsty mob.