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Bec Rawlings believes Bare Knuckle FC experience will make her a better MMA fighter

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

LOS ANGELES -- It didn’t take long for fellow fighters to come out of the woodwork, asking what this whole Bare Knuckle FC thing was all about.

“Rowdy” Bec Rawlings didn’t hear too much from the fighting fraternity going into her BKFC 1 fight with boxer Alma Garcia on June 2. But after the event proved to be an under-the-radar hit -- and after Rawlings put on a memorable show with her doctor stoppage TKO win at the end of the second round -- the fighters started hitting up the popular former UFC and Invicta competitor, sensing their chance to get in on the potential next big thing.

“I had multiple, multiple messages from people in Australia, in the U.S., people in the UFC,” Rawlings said during a recent BKFC 2 open workout at City of Angels Gym. “They were like ‘that was so exciting, that was crazy, I would love to do that,’ there were so many people like that. They wanted to know how was it, just a lot of interest in it from the fighters. People were saying ‘get me in there, I want to be a part of this.’”

Indeed, mixed martial artists have are starting to beat down the door trying to get in on the event -- retired UFC slugger Chris Lytle, for one, will appear on the Aug. 25 show in Biloxi, Miss. But when Rawling steps into the ring with Britain Hart in BKFC’s main event, she’ll have an advantage the newbies won’t: She’s done this before.

“We haven’t really changed much,” Rawlings said. “What we didn’t know going in was how was going to be the fight week, what’s it acutally like in the ring, that was the unknown, but I had so much fun, I can’t wait to go back in there and do it again.”

Nor did Rawlings find all that much difference between Bare Knuckle and an ordinary MMA fight, both in the leadup and the aftermath. The big fear going into the first event was that there were be a preponderance of mangled hands after a night of open-fisted punching.

But while Rawlings admitted she had more swelling on the hands than she does following a typical MMA fight, they were superficial abrasions and nothing she finds to be of great concern.

“That was my only worry in my last fight,” Rawlings said. “My hands are how I make my money. I’ve got this absolutely 100 percent down, I’ve got a good team, I have 100 percent confidence in my training and technique. I’m going to get superficial brusing an swelling, which will come out in any fight anyway. But I’m 100 percent confident I’m not going to have any crazy injury to my hand or anything like that.”

Rawlings has found her Bare Knuckle experience has been a needed change of pace. She had unquestionably proven her toughness at the highest level, but kept coming out on the wrong end of decisions -- six of her past six losses in the UFC and Invicta went the distance. But Rawlings said the whole BFKC experience has rekindled her love of the game.

“I couldn’t believe how professional they were,” Rawlings said. “Something could go so wrong if it was the wrong kind of promoters, wrong kind of people, so I definitely wanted to go about doing things the right way. So I saw what they were doing and how they were going about the things the right way and the way they were marketing themselves and I was like hell yeah, get in touch with my manager and let’s talk. I love to box, I love to strike, I love to dirty box, it’s everything I love to do.”

If anything, Rawlings believes that when she returns to the cage, she’ll be a smarter and more complete fighter for her Bare Knuckle experience.

“We focus on the skill set and not just training hard and going 100 percent all the time,” she said. “My mind set and using strategy and using a skill set that I’ve always had but I haven’t used. Definitely when I do go back to MMA you’ll see a different me in there, I will be more practical and skillful, my distance and my range and my shot selection, everything is just completely changed.”

In the meantime, Rawlings has noticed that the acceptance level of Bare Knuckle has similarities to the early days of the UFC. The sport is sanctioned by athletic commissions in Wyoming and Mississippi. Kansas state athletic commission chairman Adam Roorbach confirmed to MMA Fighting that his state his put the wheels in motion for sanctioning of the sport in his state, and that barring any unexpected hangups, BKFC would be welcome to hold a future event there once the legalization formalities are complete.

But just like it took the UFC years and years do become fully legalized, Rawlings knows this will be a similar uphill battle.

“This will succeed if its done right,” Rawling said. “Bare Knuckle FC is doing it right. They’re being profesisonal, its in the ring, there’s all the rught people and the right fighters, and as long as it keeps going that way, absolutely I think this will catch on.”