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Bec Rawlings wants Paige VanZant in bare-knuckle fight: ‘I would just love to punch her in the face one more time’

Bec Rawlings knows she has her hands full in a rematch with Britain Hart at BKFC 26 on Friday but the “queen of bare-knuckle” already has her sights set on a future opponent for later this year.

Thanks to an ever expanding roster at BKFC, Rawlings has a lot more competition now than when she made her debut for the promotion back in 2018 but one name in particular has stood out to her above the rest thanks to a past fight they shared while both competing in the UFC.

“I’ve definitely got a bone to pick with [Paige VanZant] still,” Rawlings told MMA Fighting. “She beat me in MMA with a lucky kick and I would definitely love to beat her in bare-knuckle.

“It’s the fight that makes sense to me for the fans, for my own pride. I would just love to punch her in the face one more time. So I’m definitely pushing for that fight.”

Back in 2016, Rawlings fell to VanZant by TKO after she got caught with a switch kick that knocked her down to the canvas just 17 seconds into the second round.

Ever since that moment, Rawlings has hoped she would get a chance to avenge that loss but now that she’s returning to compete in BKFC where VanZant is also signed, it almost feels like the rematch is fated to happen.

Of course, Rawlings has a better established resume than VanZant in bare-knuckle competition after going 3-0 and serving as the Police Gazette women’s champion before leaving to return to mixed martial arts. Meanwhile, VanZant has yet to find her footing in BKFC after suffering back-to-back decision losses to Hart and Rachael Ostovich.

Despite those setbacks, VanZant has stayed committed to her future in bare-knuckle fighting, which is why she’s currently slated to return to action in August when the promotion debuts in the United Kingdom for the first time.

While VanZant has yet to taste victory in BKFC, Rawlings still gives her credit for showing up and displaying a lot of heart and determination even in those defeats.

“I remember saying she’s really tough and resilient and she’s showing that,” Rawlings said. “In her fights, she did not back down. She went out there and she showed skill set. Honestly, if I could fault her, I think you’ve seen it in a lot of MMA fighters who are crossing over, the output is different in boxing than it is in MMA.

“You can sit back and throw one or two shots in MMA and really kind of control a fight, I guess. The combinations in boxing and the number of punches that need to be thrown in a two minute round compared to a five minute round are completely different.”

According to Rawlings, the shortcomings that have plagued VanZant are really no different than tendencies she’s seen in other mixed martial artists making the move to bare-knuckle.

“I think their approach, like even Pearl Gonzalez if I was going to fault her fight, it was the same thing,” Rawlings said. “They’re still kind of approaching it like it’s an MMA fight but with only punches. I think if they were going to change anything, they need to change the way they’re approaching it. It’s a two-minute sprint. You don’t have five minutes to set things up and work on things. You’ve got two minutes to go out there and really push the pace.

“I think that’s probably the biggest thing that I’ve seen with Paige’s fights. She’s still kind of MMA minded. She went out there and showed skill. She showed heart and resilience and I can’t fault her for that but I don’t think she’s going to have much for me. I don’t really rate many of the girls in bare-knuckle to be honest. I definitely feel like I’m one of the top girls. I just need to get out there again and show it to everyone again and remind everyone.”

If Rawlings is successful in her return fight against Hart on Friday, a title shot against the winner of the upcoming bout between reigning champion Christine Ferea and Taylor Starling would probably make the most sense.

That said, Rawlings can’t deny her desire to face VanZant again if given the opportunity plus she knows that would be a massive fight for both of them as well as BKFC.

“I want to be world champ again,” Rawlings said. “I never lost it. No one ever beat me for that belt so in my heart, I’m still world champ but obviously I’ve got to go back there and fight Christine [Ferea] for that or whoever is the title holder when it comes to that chance.

“I’m eyeing the card in England. I’d definitely love to go there and fight. I’m not overlooking Britain but my goal is to knock Britain out and then back it up in [August]. I will definitely be pushing for that England card. If it’s against Paige, even better.”

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