Don’t tell Hector Lombard that his move to bare-knuckle boxing is in any way a step back in his career.
Yes, the 42-year-old has already accomplished much in the world of combat sports; first, as a standout judoka representing his country of Cuba and then later as a star in the world of mixed martial arts, where he once went on a five-year, 25-fight unbeaten stretch that included a reign as Bellator’s middleweight champion.
Lombard was released by the UFC last year, and rather than seek a new MMA promotion to call home, he instead chose to sign with the Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship. He makes his debut for the promotion this Saturday against David Mundell in the main event of BKFC 10 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Having dabbled in a variety of martial arts competitions for the better part of the last two decades, Lombard is uniquely qualified to explain why bare-knuckle boxing is becoming an increasingly viable option for professional fighters.
“I’d say, whatever with that because this is how society is in general,” Lombard told MMA Fighting when asked about his response to critics of bare-knuckle boxing. “That’s normal for people, they ask questions, they laugh, and then [they change.] They’ll say, ‘Oooh, that thing is great.’ It happened with the UFC. I remember back in the day, they were saying the same things. ‘Oh man, that s*it is brutal. I don’t know who can do that.’ It becomes one of the most popular sports in history. So I don’t really care what anyone thinks.
“I think it’s a great sport. I think it’s brutal, but it’s excitement, and when it’s excitement, it gets viewership, and when there’s viewership, there’s money.”
Make no mistake, Lombard isn’t just lending his talents to the BKFC out of the kindness of his heart. He speaks highly of his business relationship with the promotion and he’s looking forward to Saturday’s show having the same level of exposure he’s grown accustomed to throughout his career.
If anything, he feels that competing outside of MMA has made fans more curious about his plans than ever before.
“It’s such a big following that bare-knuckle already has and the platform that they’ve built, it’s unbelievable,” Lombard said. “Everybody’s tuning in.
“To be honest, I’ve got more interviews now than when I signed with the UFC, and at that time it was a big deal because I was on a 25-fight win streak, which is hard to do.”
Lombard isn’t satisfied with how his UFC run ended, which shouldn’t be surprising given that he went winless in his last seven appearances for the promotion. He was finished in three of those losses, but disputes a pair of decisions that didn’t go his way and a September 2017 disqualification loss to C.B. Dollaway that was the result of Lombard landing strikes after the bell.
Because of those disclaimers, Lombard isn’t too bothered by his recent lack of success and he has nothing but positive thoughts heading into his matchup with Mundell, even if he’s aware that he could come out the worse for wear.
“If it goes the distance and we’re banging in there and we cut each other and we drop each other, then it’s been a great fight,” Lombard said. “That’s what I’m going to do on Saturday night. KO is a bonus, for any other fighter, and that’s it.”
Lombard didn’t rule out a return to MMA, but made it clear that he’s only focused on the fight at hand. Win or lose, he expects to compete for BKFC again sometime this year.
One thing he doesn’t expect to have to do is answer any more questions about his latest career move after fans see how he performs in the bare-knuckle arena.
“One, it’s different. Second, I want to do it before I retire. And third, the money is great,” Lombard said. “You’ve got your answers right there.
“I see people saying they fought in so many different promotions… They say, ‘I did it all.’ Well, you haven’t done bare-knuckle. So you didn’t do it all.”