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Johny Hendricks set to return in bare knuckle fight against Brennan Ward

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Johny Hendricks
Johny Hendricks is back.
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Former UFC welterweight champion Johny Hendricks may be retired from MMA, but that doesn’t mean he’s done with the fight game entirely.

Hendricks and longtime Bellator contender Brennan Ward have agreed to make their bare-knuckle boxing debuts in a 185-pound matchup at the inaugural show of the World Bare Knuckle Fighting Federation (WBKFF), which takes place Nov. 9 at the Casper Events Center in Casper, Wyoming. MMA Fighting confirmed the booking Monday following an initial report by FightbookMMA.

Hendricks, 35, retired from mixed martial arts this past June. “Bigg Rigg” spent 10 years competing in the UFC and memorably started his Octagon career with 10-1 run to the welterweight title which included victories over Carlos Condit, Josh Koscheck, Jon Fitch, Martin Kampmann, and TJ Grant. In his first title opportunity, Hendricks lost a controversial split decision to Georges St-Pierre, but then rebounded to win the 170-pound strap with a Fight of the Year performance over Robbie Lawler in 2014.

Hendricks (18-8) exited the sport earlier this year following a 1-5 run that culminated with back-to-back knockout losses to Tim Boestch and Paulo Costa at 185 pounds.

He’ll now return to the ring against Ward (14-6), a one-time Bellator title contender whose momentum was recently halted by a two-fight losing skid suffered at the hands of Paul Daley and Fernando Gonzalez. Ward was scheduled to fight Andre Fialho at Bellator 207 in October, but last week pulled out of the fight and announced his retirement from MMA.

In addition to Hendricks vs. Ward, a bare-knuckle rematch between Joey Beltran and Tony Lopez is in the works for WBKFF’s debut event, WBKFF vice president Paul Tyler told MMA Fighting.

Beltran and Lopez collided in a frenetic war of attrition this past June at the debut show of Bare Knuckle FC, which MMA Fighting was able to cover behind-the-scenes.

Video of Beltran and Lopez’s classic battle can be seen below.