Following the first sanctioned Bare Knuckle Boxing event in over 100 years happening this past weekend the question remains: does the sport have a future in the USA?
On June 2 in Cheyenne, Wyoming, Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship had their first event. Headlined by former UFC Heavyweight champion Ricco Rodriguez, the card was littered with a healthy handful of ex-UFC and Bellator talents including Bec Rawlings, Joey Beltran, Eric Prindle, and D.J. Linderman. Rodriguez came out on top in the main event to advance in the Heavyweight tournament, as did Beltran in the fight of the night against Tony Lopez.
Overall, at least judging by social media and press coverage, the event was a success. It was all over Twitter and other social media platforms. It was covered by many mainsteam media outlets (early MMA fans could only dream of such legitimate media fawning), and MMA publications. Fan response was pretty positive. But with all that being said, does the sport have a bright future in the USA?
Something many may not realize is that Bare Knuckle Boxing has been a thing in the UK and Europe for years. The sport has chugged along there, with the largest promotion being Bare Knuckle Boxing. BKB has seen fighters such as Melvin Guillard, Joe Riggs, Wes Sims, Shannon Ritch, and others walk through the ropes over there. Yet here in America Bare Knuckle Boxing had not been able to be regulated in over 100 years. Until this past Saturday in Wyoming.
For the sport to have a bright future you have to consider the two biggest issues, the first being public opinion. People look at fighters with no gloves, and bloody knuckles and see the sport as barbaric. Despite the graphic nature and more cuts that come along with no gloves, other combat sports can actually cause more brain trauma, as more padding only protects the hands, and not necessarily the brain.
The reality about changing public opinion is that you probably can’t, at least in the short term. It’s something that will only change with time. For example, the UFC was looked down upon and banned in many, many states for the first couple years of its existence. Remember “human cockfighting?” Turn up the blood and gore, remove the gloves. Here we are 25 years later and the UFC is a giant promotion and MMA is a large growing sport with a bright future. Bare Knuckle Boxing is where the UFC was all those years ago.
— caposa (@Grabaka_Hitman) June 3, 2018
The other main problem that Bare Knuckle Boxing faces in America is getting commissions on board. Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship got Wyoming on board and got them to license the promotion, but that is the only state that has licensed Bare Knuckle thus far. The promotion’s best hope would be that other states will follow, especially some of the larger commissions. If they don’t they’d be forced to run their events exclusively out of Wyoming. Not the best thing, though it’s not a horrible situation to be in if PPV revenues are healthy.
Overall, the sport is new in America, but if the pieces fall into place the sport could have a bright future. Not to mention a bloody one.