Bare knuckle boxing is back! Jun 2, 2018 11:02:01 GMT -5
Post by ToyfareMark on Jun 2, 2018 11:02:01 GMT -5
And only on pay per view.
Bare-knuckle fighting conjures certain mental images: Bloody knuckles, barbarism and that scene from "Gangs of New York" all come to mind. David Feldman looks to change that.
With the massive money being generated by MMA and boxing, who can blame Feldman, president of Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship (BKFC), for wanting to jab his way into the market?
"Right now, we're selling this on the curiosity factor. What really is this thing?" Feldman told Sporting News. "This is the hardest thing in the world I've ever had to do — promote something that I didn't have any footage to show people. I'm almost promoting an inanimate object."
On Saturday, June 2, Feldman aims to satisfy that curiosity, as BKFC airs "BKFC: The Beginning" on pay-per-view. It's the first sanctioned and regulated bare-knuckle fight event since the late 1800s.
Certainly, it's tough to gauge interest in something that's effectively been dead and buried for more than 100 years. In fact, Feldman feels — and to a certain extent knows — the interest level is high, and quantifiably so. In 2011, on a Native American reservation outside of Scottsdale, Ariz., Feldman put together their first bare-knuckle fight on an MMA undercard. What followed was eye-opening results.
"One bare-knuckle fight on an MMA undercard — 1.2 million viewers logged in to buy (the fight) at one time," Feldman said. "Unlucky for us, the paywall crashed, so we weren't able to get paid. But we're here now because 1.2 million people in a 40-minute timespan wanted to watch that event."
Seven years and many hurdles later, BKFC wants to elbow its way into the combat sports scrum, and in the process do it as "professional" as possible. It wasn't easy getting this off the ground, as Feldman was denied in state after state — 28 states told him no before Wyoming said yes — for a license to carry the event. There were two main reasons why.
"Perception," Feldman said. "If you look up bare-knuckle fighting, bare-knuckle boxing on the internet, all you see is people on the sidewalk fighting. People in the field fighting. People in a bar fighting. They're not showing what the art of this truly is.
"Who wouldn't, if they've never seen this, think that bare-knuckle fighting is a street fight? It's not. It's much, much more than that."
In addition to changing the narrative surrounding bare-knuckle fighting and the hobo-fight mental images it conjures, Feldman and BKFC conducted various tests dedicated to determine health and head trauma risks. Citing boxing as more dangerous over the long-term, Feldman said he has gone great lengths to prove that bare-knuckle fighting is safer than people realize.
"We've done research in this for eight years with board-certified neurologists. We just discovered the effects, long-term, of getting hit in the head with gloves on, and getting hit in the head without gloves on," Feldman said, laying out the countless hours of work devoted to making this as "safe" as getting decked in the face can possibly be.
"We have a scientifically designed punch meter, designed by a guy who designs crash tests for the automobile industry. We tested punches, kicks and elbows, and the bare fist has the least amount of pounds per square inch, so it shows they can't deliver the amount of damage as the others."
Beyond hurdling the health issues and regulations, Feldman faced the big challenge that comes with putting together any kind of combat sports event: a card. It's difficult enough trying to put one together for big-time promotions: UFC, any kind of boxing event and even independent wrestling. Putting together something that's the first of its kind is a unique challenge.
Lucky for Feldman, Saturday's card features some names that fight fans of all combat sports may be familiar with: former boxer Bobby Gunn, former UFC heavyweight champ Ricco Rodriguez, former UFC fighter Johnny Bedford — all of whom have the opportunity to become a "pioneer" with BKFC, Feldman said.
Feldman said the fighters on the card are getting paid well above market value for what they'd be making in their respective sports — a risky but smart and fair proposal to make to fighters stepping into a new sport and venture.
Lineal bare-knuckle heavyweight champion Gunn has stepped in the ring against famed boxers Roy Jones Jr. and James Toney, among others. His bare-knuckle background runs deep in his heritage and family history.
"(The best part) of this is being able to bring this into the mainstream, instead of hiding behind the shadows and empty car parks and abandoned buildings," Gunn told SN. "People think bare-knuckle boxing is boxing. It's not, it's a completely different sport.
"I've seen many great ring men getting beat by dumb bare-knuckle fighters. Bare-knuckle boxing is its own, totally different sport — moves, how do you throw a punch, how do you stop a punch."
Any way you slice it, it's a slightly difficult sell with an ambitious goal. Feldman studies the landscape of the combat sports realm and realizes the geography could play a role in the promotion's success.
"Twenty-five years ago this year, an hour away from where I'm doing this show, UFC 1 (took place)," Feldman told SN.
"Twenty-five years later, we're ready for something else. Everybody wants something different, so we're giving it to them. … We're gonna make combat sports history."
I don't see this lasting too long.