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Bec Rawlings doesn’t expect Paige VanZant to find success in BKFC: ‘She wouldn’t get out of the first round with me’

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Bec Rawlings (pictured, right) in action
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Bec Rawlings definitely knows a thing or two about bare-knuckle fighting.

The former UFC and current Bellator MMA competitor was one of the faces of the Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship when the promotion first launched in 2018. She fought on the very first card as well two of the next three events before leaving the sport to return to mixed martial arts.

During her time with the BKFC, Rawlings amassed a perfect 3-0 record while also winning and defending a championship along the way.

“It definitely revamped my career,” Rawlings told MMA Fighting about her time in the BKFC. “I didn’t have the best fights or best showings in the UFC. I lost a few fights, I won some as well but I did lose quite a lot and I just wasn’t in a great space career wise, really mentally and physically. So it was cool to kind of revamp my career and my image with bare-knuckle and the sport was kind of made for me.

“My fighting style worked out really well. I miss the sport immensely but while I was doing bare-knuckle, I missed MMA immensely. It would be cool if I could do both but right now I’m focusing on Bellator.”

Of course, Rawlings’ name surfaced again in relations to bare-knuckle fighting when former opponent Paige VanZant inked a multi-fight deal with the BKFC after reaching free agency following her exit from the UFC.

VanZant is expected to make her BKFC debut on Feb. 5 and she holds a past TKO win over Rawlings when both were competing in the UFC. While Rawlings is clear that her loyalty lies with Bellator, the desire to run it back with VanZant under bare-knuckle rules is definitely appealing.

“With Bare-Knuckle signing Paige it’s definitely garnered a lot of interest in people wondering if I’m going to fight her,” Rawlings said. “I would love that fight. I’m sure we could probably try to work something out with Bellator and Bare Knuckle, doing a cross promotion thing. I don’t know, I’d be down for that. We’ll just have to wait and see.”

VanZant signing with the BKFC was a shock to many, especially considering that her husband Austin Vanderford currently occupies a spot on the Bellator roster. Add to that, VanZant picked up some impressive wins throughout her UFC career but she was better known as a well-rounded fighter rather than a pure boxer on the feet.

VanZant is training tirelessly under her new coaches at American Top Team in Florida to prove the naysayers wrong when she makes her BKFC debut, but count Rawlings as one of the critics who isn’t sold that she’ll find much success once she actually throws hands with an experienced bare-knuckle fighter.

“I was and then I wasn’t [surprised she signed with the BKFC] because they probably just threw a ridiculous amount of money at her and she’s just seeing dollar signs,” Rawlings said. “She’s very naive and thinking it’s just two weapons and I don’t think she realizes the skill set it takes, especially in bare-knuckle boxing to not take damage.

“She hasn’t been the greatest with not taking damage. She’s known for being tough and that’s cause she takes a beating. I just don’t think she’s thought it through. I think after her first fight, whoever that is, I think she’ll probably realize that bare-knuckle boxing isn’t the sport for her.”

If the option was available, Rawlings would welcome the chance to run it back with VanZant under bare-knuckle fighting rules and she’s extremely confident in the outcome of that rematch.

“I would love to avenge that loss,” Rawlings said. “That loss still sits in the deep pit of my stomach and I’ve never let that go. I think that she has no hope in bare-knuckle boxing against me. I really don’t think she’s going to do well against any of the girls but especially with the girls I faced. I just don’t see her as a boxer. She’s never been a great boxer. She’s been a great grappler. A very good kicker. But boxing is a different game.

“I definitely feel like she wouldn’t get out of the first round with me. I’m very confident in that fight and I’d love to avenge my losses as best I could. Obviously it’s not MMA, it’s not avenging it completely but I would definitely love to fight her again.”

Anything can happen in the future, but Rawlings isn’t thinking too much about bare-knuckle fighting right now as she awaits her opportunity to compete in Bellator again.

Rawlings is coming off a win in her last fight with the promotion and she’s anxious to return to the Bellator cage as soon as possible.

“I love Bellator. I never want to leave them,” Rawlings said. “This is the happiest I’ve been in a long time with this promotion. They remind me a lot of Invicta when I first fought in the U.S. I was very happy and I felt loved and wanted and appreciated in that promotion and that’s how I feel with Bellator.”