Bare Knuckle Fighting Championships has already enjoyed a strong start to 2021 with the “KnuckleMania” event that featured the long awaited debut of former UFC star Paige VanZant. But that’s just the beginning of ambitious plans for the promotion for the rest of the year.
That’s according to BKFC president Dave Feldman, who is currently plotting out the spring and summer cards for the organization with big plans in store for several returning fighters as well as the debuts of some high-profile signings to the promotion.
Among those fighters who are expected to compete for BKFC this year is mixed martial arts legend Wanderlei Silva, who had been rumored as an addition to the company’s roster as far back as 2019. While a deal to bring Silva on board actually took longer than what was initially reported, Feldman says he’s planning on talking to the Brazilian any day now while giving him a few options for his BKFC debut.
“[Wanderlei Silva] is going to be fighting,” Feldman said. “He’s been training really, really hard, and that conversation happens tomorrow and then we’re going to give him a list of three different opponents and that’s going to be something great that we want to announce as well.”
In addition to Silva, BKFC had also signed former UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir to a contract, but he hasn’t actually had the chance to make his first appearance yet.
Part of the reason for the delay was an offer for Mir to crossover to boxing for an upcoming fight against Steve Cunningham on the Triller promoted event headlined by Jake Paul against Ben Askren. Feldman said he gave Mir his blessing to pursue a boxing match, because he’s not out to cost anybody a huge payday if that’s available to them.
“We came to an agreement with Frank Mir, and he’s represented by First Round [Management] and we have a good relationship with them,” Feldman explained. “They said they had an opportunity to make a whole lot of money fighting on this card so I said, yeah, go ahead. We’re all in this for the same goal to put on great shows and make money and he has an opportunity so I gave it to him.
“We’ll see how the outcome is. Obviously, if he puts up a good fight and he looks good, he’s coming back and if he looks like his career is winding down then his career can wind down.”
Of course, arguably the biggest free agent pickup for BKFC in recent months was VanZant, who signed with the bare-knuckle outfit following the conclusion of her contract with the UFC.
VanZant debuted in the main event for BKFC “KnuckleMania,” but ultimately lost a five round decision to Britain Hart. Since that time, VanZant has made it clear that her future lies in bare knuckle fighting as she anticipates a summer time return to the ring.
Feldman teased VanZant’s next fight with hopes that he’ll have a deal signed in relatively short order.
“She’s either June 18 or July,” Feldman said about VanZant’s next fight. “We’re working on that right now. We should have that in the next week or so. The girl that she’s going to fight, her manager is going through some personal issues so we haven’t been able to consummate that right now but probably in the next week or so.
“It’s going to be a very, very interesting, intriguing matchup. But I can’t wait to tell you the who the main event is.”
After headlining her debut, VanZant will serve as the co-main event for her next card but Feldman couldn’t reveal much more information about the fight he’s putting together for the top slot. He could only promise that it’s going to make sense why VanZant would be the co-main event that night.
As for the woman who beat VanZant in her BKFC debut, Feldman has plans in mind for Britain Hart as well as she is expected to compete again in the next few months as well.
“She’ll probably be on the June card,” Feldman said about Hart. “We were talking about the May card but I think she’s going to be on June and I think we have something kind of interesting.
“She’s probably going to fight someone — when I mention the person she’s fighting it’s going to be very, very interesting to her. I can’t wait to announce that either. She’s going to probably fight June 18 is what it looks like but she could fight May 21 but I think it’s going to end up being June 18. She’ll be co-main on that one.”
Before VanZant or Hart can return to action, Feldman is first putting his full attention on April 30 for BKFC 17, which will take place from Birmingham, Ala.
BKFC had already started to sell a limited number of tickets to a few events while enacting safety protocols to align with local government orders during the COVID-19 pandemic. With many states beginning to lift restrictions entirely including Texas and Florida where the UFC will hold sold out events in April and May, Feldman is excited for the same opportunity by welcoming a full crowd back to the BKFC sooner rather than later.
“We were the first combat sports organization in the country to actually have fans in attendance during the pandemic,” Feldman said. “So we’ve had a limited number of fans at all of our events but this is our model. Our model is grassroots marketing, meaning having fighters there watching this live. Seeing it live, seeing it up close and personal. Hearing the fist hit the skin. That’s the sound that really captivates them and keeps them coming back. That’s really what we’re looking for here and that’s the most important to our growth.
“We’re so looking forward to these other states opening up and allowing the crowds in there because that’s what’s really going to grow our fan base this year.”