Interview: BKFC uninterested in bare knuckle MMA – Grappling takes away from the excitement

Check out our exclusive interview with BKFC founder/President David Feldman ahead of BKFC 56: Mike Perry vs. Eddie Alvarez.

By: Eddie Mercado | 2 weeks ago
Interview: BKFC uninterested in bare knuckle MMA – Grappling takes away from the excitement
BKFC founder David Feldman catches up with Bloody Elbow for an exclusive interview | Imago/Icon Sportswire/Amy Kaplan , IMAGO

BKFC founder and President, David Feldman, has been on the frontlines of legalizing bare knuckle combat sports for over half of a decade, and is set to put on his biggest card to date. BKFC 56: Mike Perry vs. Eddie Alvarez is happening on December 2nd in Salt Lake City, Utah, and features two titles on the line, plus familiar faces like Mike Perry, Eddie Alvarez, Ben Rothwell, Todd Duffee, Jeremy Stephens, and Jimmie Rivera.

Before the Maverik Center plays host to the promotion’s flagship event, Feldman caught up with Bloody Elbow for an exclusive interview.

On top of getting sanctioned, Feldman touched on the difficulties with running a promotion, particularly the funding. He also admitted that although he enjoyed Buakaw vs. Saenchai at BKFC Thailand 5, he feels like the Muay Thai ruleset took away from some of the excitement that made BKFC what it is today. Along those lines, David mentioned how he isn’t planning on doing any bare knuckle MMA events anytime soon.

Feldman spoke on the BKFC 56 main event, and the body shots exchanged at the recent face off between Perry and Alvarez. He also gave his thoughts on whether or not Alvarez will be retiring after this one. Feldman is also asked to peer into his crystal ball, and projected a television deal on the horizon, and claiming the #2-#3 spot in combat sports.

David Feldman video interview

BKFC started from the bottom

EM: Can you reflect on what it’s been like going from scratching and clogging your way, state by state, to get sanctioned, to now having quite a bit of traction, bringing in the big names, and really paving the way for all bare knuckle versions of combat sports?

DF: We deal with everything that happens in the background and people don’t understand the trials and tribulations that it takes, and it’s a lot, man. It’s a lot. You know, your sleepless nights, worrying if this fight is going to fall out, getting this guy to sign. So many different things that you just don’t see. Funding. You know, people think that it’s easy. They see sell out arenas. They see this. They don’t understand the money that it takes to really make a promotion go.

Especially someone like us who really bootstrapped this thing, and didn’t take in a lot of big investors. Kind of wanted to keep a big chunk of it ourself, and now it’s come to that time where we’re going to bring on some significant investors to really blow this thing up. But it’s been an amazing journey. You know, it’s been a lot of ups and downs, a lot of roller coasters, but I mean, I think we kept ourselves above water, and you know, we are very, very much talked about in all the combat sports realms now.


EM: Would you say funding is the biggest obstacle, next to getting sanctioned, that you constantly have to deal with?

DF: Probably getting sanctioned first. You know, for the first year or two was the hardest, and now it’s funding. And it’s only funding because we’re expanding so fast, like we’re going everywhere. We’re doing so many shows.

And then cash flow, right? So cash flow is like, you don’t get paid from things that you did in April, until July or August, but you have six more shows that you have to do from then to then. That becomes an issue, but you know we have a lot of interested parties in us that really want to take this journey, take this ride with us, and we’re making it happen.

BKFC Thailand 5: Buakaw vs. Saenchai

EM: You just had BKFC Thailand 5, which witnessed Buakaw vs. Saenchai in a special rules Bare Knuckle Muay Thai fight. This is the first time you’ve adopted special rules.

DF: It got it got a total of like 3.8 million live views, which is incredible, and to date about I don’t know I think we’re up to like almost 180 million views on that right now, and in less than a week. So it was phenomenal from that perspective. You know we came out with Bare Knuckle Fighting because we wanted to be different, and we wanted people to hear the knuckles hitting the face.

I love the fight. I thought it was great, but I’m not sure that, I think it took away from the punches, and I think the punches are the things that make makes this thing so significant. Not saying we can’t do that as well, but I don’t think we’re going to add that into our repertoire, right. It might be something we do separately, Bare Knuckle Muay Thai and do what we’re doing with BKFC.


EM: Your league is Bare Knuckle Fighting, not just bare knuckle boxing, plus you just had your special rules match. Do you think we’ll ever see a BKFC MMA bout?

DF: I think bare knuckle MMA is good, not taking anything away from anybody, but I think that the reason why I created bare knuckle was to keep the excitement going. I think that in bare knuckle MMA, I think that once a guy lands a punch, like in BKFC for instance, there they have to stand and bang. There’s nothing else you can do. You got to stand and bang. And if you don’t stand and bang, you’re going to lose, right? You’re going to lose the fight.

In bare knuckle MMA, however, you get hit with a bare knuckle punch, you could take the guy down right away, and you don’t have to stand and bang. And then you can go into your jujitsu moves, which are great, right, fantastic sport. Awesome. But I think it takes away from some of the excitement that I created with BKFC.

So I’m never going to say never because, you know, as things evolve you’re going to see what happens. I’m not 100% sure yet. I just know that we didn’t grow BKFC itself to where we wanted to grow yet to actually add those things into our repertoire yet.

BKFC founder David Feldman catches up with Bloody Elbow for an exclusive interview
BKFC founder David Feldman catches up with Bloody Elbow for an exclusive interview | IMAGO/DiegoxRibas/ZUMA Wire, IMAGO

UFC helping/hurting BKFC

EM: What is one way that the UFC indirectly helps BKFC, and what is one way in which the UFC indirectly hurts you?

DF: I mean UFC, Hunter Campbell was nice enough to lend us a few of their fighters as well, so you know, thank you to them for that. And I think that just what they did for combat sports has to help any other combat sport promotion out there, because they have such a, you know, such a strong hold on it. And I think it really helps everything.

And the only thing I’m going to say that it hurts us is the fact that, you know, when we go up against them, on some events, you know it’s not a good result for us, right. I mean, they’ve never said or done anything to go out of their way to hurt us, and we’ve never said or done anything to go out of our way to hurt them. Look, say what you want about Dana White and this lawsuit and everything they’re doing, but I mean, they took it from nothing and they built it into a global phenomenon. So hats off to them for that.

BKFC 56: Mike Perry vs. Eddie Alvarez

EM: Mike Perry vs. Eddie Alvarez is a crazy matchup. I saw their faceoff the other day, and they were exchanging blows to the body. What did you think of the body shots?

DF: I thought it was kind of fun, it was different. And then I saw the look on Eddie Alvarez’s face. And I was like, alright guys, you guys are done. These guys are about to start banging, and I mean really banging. I was like, we got to save this for three weeks from now. But it was good to know they were able to put on a little bit of a show there, and get people interested. I think people were interested in it. I think initially people were like Mike Perry’s going to walk through Eddie Alvarez, right?

As you heard Eddie Alvarez at the press conference, ‘I won three different titles. I have knockouts. You haven’t had a knockout in this amount of time. I mean he made a lot of good valid points to prove that it should be an entertaining, even matchup. Right. And is Mike Perry too big for him? A lot of people think he is. Eddie Alvarez has been in there with everybody.

I mean anyone that says that he’s going to walk right through Eddie Alvarez, and he might, is probably saying the wrong thing because, I mean, this is the guy that’s been in there with everybody. He’s won championships in every major organization around, so, you know, take my hat off to him because he asked for this fight.

Eddie Alvarez retirement?

EM: Do you think this will be Eddie Alvarez’s last match?

DF: I mean, it really depends on the outcome, right? If Eddie comes out on top, we definitely have one more that we’re going to do. Fingers crossed, Pennsylvania opens up any day, and we give him a homecoming here in Philly. That’s what I’d like to do.”

And if he, you know, doesn’t want to fight again, then he had a hell of a career. I mean, he fought everybody everywhere. He was one of the originators, Bodog. I mean, he’s been doing this since the beginning. So hats off to him. And of course, he’s a Philly boy. Man, I had to get him on there. You know, I had to have a top Philly guy on there being from Philly.

Jake Paul

EM: Would you be open to signing a Jake Paul, or someone in that vein?

DF: Anything. Look, it’s going to bring eyeballs. I mean, I’m not going to put a Jake Paul, not Jake Paul, but a Jake Paul type of guy that can’t fight at all in here. I’m going to put up someone that can fight. If they can fight, and they can bring viewers, I’m all in. All in.

I don’t think we’ll ever be #1

EM: So much has happened in the past five-years for BKFC. What does the next five years have in store?

DF: I think certainly a TV deal is coming in the next, you know, six to twelve months. 100%. We’re talking to a lot of different networks. Reality show’s in the making. Those things are things, and the reason why I brought them up, not that that makes us up there. Those things will attract the viewers and give them an opportunity to follow the fighters, and that will put us up there.

I think we can be the number two combat sport promotion in the world in three years, two-and-a-half to three years. I really do. I don’t think we’ll ever be number one, and maybe we will, but I don’t think we will. I mean, UFC has a strong hold on this, and I don’t see them going away anytime soon. They do a hell of a job. But hey, man, if I could come from nothing, scratch and claw my way up to number two, number three position in combat sports, I think we did a hell of a job.

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About the author
Eddie Mercado
Eddie Mercado

Eddie Mercado is a writer and content creator for Bloody Elbow, and has covered combat sports since 2015. Eddie covers everything from betting odds and live events, to fighter interviews and co-hosting the 6th Round post-fight show and the 6th Round Retro. He retired at 1-0 in professional MMA, competed in one Muay Thai match in Thailand, and is currently a purple belt in Jiu-Jitsu under the great Diego Bispo.

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