Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship (BKFC) will return to action on Friday, Feb. 5, two days before the NFL’s Super Bowl, at least as things are scheduled now, knock on wood and all that.
The event, called “Knucklemania,” will be headlined by the bare knuckle boxing debut of former UFC star Paige VanZant, whose move to the world of bare knuckle fighting has raised a lot of eyebrows, and it’s something BKFC hope will attract a lot of eyeballs.
VanZant, 26, turned pro in mixed martial arts in 2012, and after going 3-1 in smaller promotions, signed with UFC, where she debuted in 2014. VanZant won her first three fights in the trademarked Octagon™, but was submitted in the fifth round by Rose Namajunas in 2015. Overall, VanZant went 8-5 in MMA and 5-4 in UFC. She lost four of her last six in the company, the last fight coming at UFC 251 in July 2020, where she was tapped in 2:21 by Amanda Ribas.
There would be major questions about VanZant trying to transition to traditional boxing, let alone bare knuckle, and before you assume she’s facing a total scrub, she really isn’t. Her opponent will be 30-year-old Britain Hart, who is 4-4-3 (3 KO) in boxing and 1-2 in BKFC, with the two losses coming to Bec Rawlings (a split decision) and Christine Ferea (a second round cut stoppage), both of whom are very good fighters in the bare knuckle world. It’s a shallow pool, yes, but both Rawlings and Ferea can fight, and Hart isn’t a bum.
Hart, in fact, seems a very ambitious debut opponent for VanZant. She’s tough as hell, scrappy, has legitimate boxing experience and far more boxing-specific training than Paige does. In terms of marketing someone they’ve brought in to be a star name for the fledgling promotion, there’s a genuine chance that BKFC will regret this matchup. Hart just fought on Nov. 13, dominating Randine Eckholm en route to a fourth round stoppage in Miami.
The Feb. 5 card will also feature a rescheduled 135-pound BKFC championship fight between Johnny Bedford and Dat Nguyen, which is one any bare knuckle enthusiast will be looking forward to, and one the curious should mark as something to see, too.
Bedford, 38, went 23-14 in MMA, fighting in UFC from 2011-14. He’s gone 5-0 (3 KO) in bare knuckle and been an early standout in the sport. Nguyen, also 38, is a name that boxing fans might remember from some years back. The Vietnamese-American had a pro boxing record of 20-3 (7 KO) and has looked pretty dominant in bare knuckle, going 2-0 (1 KO) in his first pair of outings, including a first round knockout of Abdiel Velazquez in Feb. 2020, his last fight.
40-year-old ex-UFC veteran Chris Leben (22-12 in MMA, 2-1 in BKFC) will also be in action, facing Quentin Henry, a 31-year-old who is 2-0 (2 KO) in BKFC after going 11-6 in MMA. Both guys bring action, so that one can be expected to be a banger, too.
“Knucklemania” will be presented on PPV and streaming live on FITE TV on Feb. 5, and won’t, it appears, be available as part of the BKFC app subscription.