In this modern age of combat sports where boxing and MMA have global appeal and reach, both sports' ancestral father, bare knuckle boxing, is making a comeback.
The bare knuckle boxing revival is being spearheaded by promoter David Feldman and Bobby Gunn, a modern day legend in the sport, resulting in the creation of Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship.
BKFC officially launched earlier this year with its first fight card in Wyoming. It's significant in the fact that bare knuckle boxing was previously illegal in the United States and no state athletic commission would even touch the sport with a 10-foot pole. But when Feldman got the green light from multiple states, Gunn told Fightful that it was a miracle.
Now that BKFC is set to do its third show on October 20 in Biloxi, Mississippi, the company has already attracted widespread media attention and a big following on social media, trending worldwide on Twitter during its June 2 card. The event also helped dispel certain misconceptions about bare knuckle boxing as Gunn said he has heard people erroneously liken the sport to "bum fights."
“In bare knuckle boxing, it’s a whole different game. Anybody that thinks it’s bum fights is a fool. Everything that we see today comes bare knuckle fighting which goes back to the ancient Greek times and it’s safer. People don’t understand, they automatically think that it’s bum fights. That is not the case. These are professional fighters. There’s a lot of great bare knuckle fighters in the world that nobody even knows of. Now they have an opportunity to be on the world stage instead of hiding underground where it was illegal and now they go to do it mainstream.” Gunn said.
When BKFC first aired, it didn't feature an underground setting or untrained people fighting it out until one of them is on the verge of critical injury. The presentation was similar to that of other big combat sports events. It's a necessary change to the traditional form of bare knuckle boxing to ensure BKFC's long-term future.
“The underground fights that I was involved in had no time limits, no rounds. A fight could go one hour. I already knew that in order to make this mainstream, you have to comply with laws, pay-per-view, networks, TV. You can’t have have an event that goes five hours, six hours long and it just be three fights. You have to modify the rules, you have to update everything. Does it take away from the real, traditional stand-up bare knuckle fighting? It does take away, but it also makes it more exciting because the fighters don’t have a lot of time. They have to jump onto the action fast. They have to exchange because it’s only two-minute rounds and they got to get their business done. Rules also had to be made to work with a TV network and pay-per-view. Otherwise, you could never have these events going on,” Gunn said.
As far as the future of BKFC is concerned, Gunn said the company has heard offers from multiple countries all over the world to do shows, including Canada and Saudi Arabia and believes the sport will even have an event in Las Vegas.
“I think you’re going to see a domino effect. You will see bare knuckle boxing in Las Vegas, Nevada, the toughest state that you would think would never do it, now will do it because they can see it is a movement. It is the first combat sport to have existed," Gunn said.
"BKFC 3: The Takeover" will feature the likes of Bec Rawlings and Kendall Grove competing in fights as well as the start of a lightweight tournament.