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Ishe Smith set for September 21st bare knuckle debut

Smith retired in February after a loss to Erickson Lubin

Floyd Mayweather Jr. v Andre Berto - Weigh-in Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

So is “retired, light-punching former champions moving to bare knuckle boxing” just a thing now?

Onetime IBF super welterweight champion Ishe Smith, who retired earlier this year after a career-first stoppage loss to Erickson Lubin, will lace up the nonexistent gloves as part of Ken Shamrock’s inaugural “Valor Bare Knuckle” event on September 21st. He faces MMA journeyman Estevan Payan on a card that also features a one-night four-man heavyweight tournament.

The 41-year-old Smith (29-11, 12 KO) ended his career on a three-fight losing streak, falling to Julian Williams, Tony Harrison, and the aforementioned Lubin. “Sugar Shay” was never what one would deem an “action fighter,” scoring just a single finish since 2012, but who knows? Maybe those gloves were holding him back.

Payan’s tough and packs a decent punch, but that’s it. He’s 3-10 in his last 13 MMA fights, including a worrying five (T)KO losses. That said, bare knuckle rules generally allow striking in the clinch, which could prove problematic for the generally clinch-happy Smith if the latter isn’t prepared.

As far as the tournament, it features 6’8” Jack May, one of MMA’s greatest flashes in the pan in Sokoudjou, kickboxer “Mighty Mo” Siliga (who’s 48 and has been washed for about a decade), and the immaculately named Mark “The Hand of” Godbeer. It’ll be a trainwreck, but May vs. Godbeer could be dumb fun between marginally competent strikers if they don’t match them up in the first round.