Jorge Masvidal reveals former Ultimate Fighter heavyweight champ to headline bare knuckle event

Jorge Masvidal is bringing bare-knuckle MMA to the Sunshine State.

By: Jack Wannan | 2 months ago
Jorge Masvidal reveals former Ultimate Fighter heavyweight champ to headline bare knuckle event
Jorge Masvidal's next event as a promoter will be a bare-knuckle MMA card | IMAGO / ZUMA Wire

Jorge Masvidal’s career as a promoter for combat sports events seems like it’s just getting started. The newly-retired MMA vet announced Thursday that he is going to be hosting a bare-knuckle MMA event on May 5 at the FLA Live Arena in Sunrise, Florida. And he’s got a surprising new signee to headline it.

The sole announced bout for the card was revealed to be a heavyweight contest between UFC and Bellator veteran Roy Nelson and Dillon Cleckler. Nelson, 46, will be making his first appearance in combat sports since he lost a decision to Valentin Moldavsky at Bellator 244 in 2020. That bout was his fourth consecutive loss and extended a winless streak in MMA that dates all the way back to 2017.

‘Big Country’ scheduled for bare-knuckle MMA bout

The man best known as ‘Big Country’ was once a household name to UFC fans. Most notably, he took home the title of ‘Ultimate Fighter’ as the season 10 winner of the UFC’s reality show—defeating Brendan Schaub in the 2009 live finale. He competed on the UFC roster until 2017, headlining four cards and scoring nine wins through 19 appearances there.

Cleckler is a 41-year-old heavyweight that has fought in MMA since 2012. He has been around the Florida regional scene for his entire career, competing primarily for Island Fights as a mixed martial artist.

The “Bad Boy” has never fought bare-knuckle MMA before, but he’s no stranger to combat sports without gloves. He has fought in bare-knuckle boxing promotion BKFC four times in the past, including an unsuccessful title bout against Arnold Adams last year. He also has the unfortunate distinction of having been the opponent for Justin Thornton in Thornton’s 2021 BKFC match. Thornton was knocked out just 19 seconds into the first round and died shortly afterward as a result of his injuries.

‘Gamebred’ preparing first bare-knuckle MMA card since 2021

Jorge Masvidal has tested out bare-knuckle MMA events before. The idea first debuted in June 2021 with a card from Biloxi, Mississippi. Gamebred Fighting Championship hosted two more bare-knuckle MMA events later that year in Biloxi as well.

Last year, Jorge Masvidal turned his focus to hosting regular boxing events, gloves and all. The fourth Gamebred Boxing card took place just earlier this month with its strongest lineup yet, featuring Anthony Pettis and Roy Jones Jr. in the headlining slot.

Cleckler also appeared in the latest Gamebred Boxing event. He picked up a quick win on the main card, putting away Josh Burns in just 80 seconds with strikes.

Jorge Masvidal back to promoting following MMA retirement

Jorge Masvidal announced his retirement from MMA earlier this month after suffering a unanimous decision loss to Gilbert Burns at UFC 287. The fight was his fourth straight loss at welterweight. The 38-year-old decided to call an end to his multi-decade career after the appearance.

Jorge Masvidal included a subtle joke about already returning during his announcement video: “Let’s get it. Your boy’s back… To promoting, that is,” he said.

Jorge Masvidal takes a lot of pride in representing his home state of Florida. He is always throwing up the area code 305. WQhen he had his retirement a few weeks back, it took place inside the Miami-Dade Arena. It’s no surprise that his next promoting venture is in The Sunshine State.

To further emphasize his support for his home state, Masvidal wore a jersey for the Florida Panthers NHL team in his video promo. The Panthers are currently tied against the Boston Bruins in the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Panthers play at the FLA Live Arena, where the upcoming bare-knuckle MMA card is expected to take place. Tickets are already on sale for the event, with most of the lower bowl for the venue currently being sold. A floor seat is going for around $249.99, with the cheapest option currently being $49.99.

As “Gamebred” mentioned in his Instagram video, his upcoming event coincides with Cinco de Mayo and Formula 1’s weekend at the Miami International Autodrome.

The broadcast details for the event are not known at the moment. Masvidal’s last boxing card was available on UFC Fight Pass through a pay-per-view option.

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About the author
Jack Wannan
Jack Wannan

Jack Wannan is a reporter for Bloody Elbow. He joined the site in 2023 after previously writing for and Knockdown News. He is currently in the process of earning a bachelor's degree in journalism at Toronto Metropolitan University.

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