Bare Knuckle Boxing has captured the imagination of fans and fighters alike, with current rosters flooded with athletes from the world of Boxing and MMA hoping to try their hand at the rawest form of combat sports. For some it’s the chance to extend their careers, for others it’s an opportunity at a fresh start, but what is consistent throughout is the burning desire to go back to where it all started for them and their sports. It’s clear the sanctioned resurgence of Bare Knuckle Boxing has done much in the way of attracting a whole host of big names from the MMA world. Fighters such as Artem Lobov and Chris Leben are amongst those who have made the transition, but as the sport grows rapidly each day, the question is who’s next?
Rather than listing fighters such as Max Holloway who although well-suited to the sport are unlikely to make the switch right now , this list hopes to shed a light on those who are realistically at a point in their careers to ditch the four ounce gloves. Therefore, these picks hope to put forth a group of fighters who have contractual and situational compatibility as well as a style befitting Bare Knuckle. There may be a few obscure names thrown in here but ultimately these men certainly fit the bill.
Rashad Coulter is undoubtedly one of the most entertaining strikers in MMA today. An all-out brawler who has been in many a war during his relatively young career, Coulter finds himself in free agency after a string of losses inside the UFC Octagon. As a result, the former boxer is available to offers from the world of Bare Knuckle Boxing, particularly BKFC who currently have former opponent Chase Sherman on their books. Although no news is yet to arise on any connection, a move such as this would certainly suit Coulter who would greatly benefit from a switch to two minute rounds considering his obvious cardio problems.
Although still technically a UFC fighter, John Phillips is currently riding a three fight losing stint and with it, potential free agency in the near future. But fear not Phillips fans for the ‘Welsh Wrecking-Machine’ could be looking at a switch over to BKB after an interview with the company’s YouTube channel raised a few eyebrows. Phillips stated after attending BKB 16 ” f***k it, it just makes you want to fight doesn’t it?”. I could well be clutching at straws here but with Phillips’ boxing heavy style and association with BKB Super Middleweight Champion Daniel Lerwell, this rumour could become reality.
After announcing his retirement from MMA back in April of this year, Ross Pearson commenced his professional boxing career with a TKO victory over Salar King just eight days ago. Yet the question is, will Pearson follow in the footsteps of fellow British UFC veteran Brad Pickett in joining the Bare Knuckle revolution? Ross’ no-nonsense style certainly matches the nature of the sport and he would be a great addition to the lighter weight-classes. Should he choose to make the switch, Ross would certainly find himself in the upper-echelons of the middleweight division setting him up to face widely regarded ‘King of Bare Knuckle Boxing’ Jimmy Sweeney.
Another man who currently still holds a UFC contract, Justin Ledet has been struggling to find momentum after his recent switch to Light-Heavweight. Back to back convincing defeats inside the Octagon have put Ledet’s future in jeopardy, with one more slip up likely spelling the termination of his contract. However, the former professional boxer has openly admitted his love for boxing over MMA, perhaps spelling out a return to the sport or even a shot at a new path in Bare Knuckle Boxing. Ledet combines clean crisp boxing with elusive footwork lending a more technical punch-picking style that would transfer well into Bare Knuckle considering the chances of broken hands.
By far the most unlikely deal to materialize on the list, Nick Diaz has been out of action since 2015, yet despite his assurance that he won’t be coming back to fighting anytime soon, he has openly admitted that he would return for an offer he could not refuse. Step forth BKFC President David Feldman who according to Paulie Malignaggi has the funds to entice the likes of Conor Mcgregor. Should this mega deal fail in negotiations perhaps this money could be transferred and tailored to Diaz’s liking. Diaz’s brutal body shots would allow for the capitalization of the devastation of a gloveless hand to bodily tissue. Combine this with his iron chin and relentless pressure and you have a perfect recipe for success.
Another man who could draw major numbers for the sport, Mark Hunt is a free agent as of December 2018. Open to offers from other organizations, speculation has begun to arise as to where Hunt is headed next. Considering his heavy hands and susceptibility to a technical slug-fest it wouldn’t be unreasonable to suggest a move to Bare Knuckle Boxing would be warranted. ‘The Super Samoan’ has tried his hand at Boxing, Kickboxing and MMA, so Bare Knuckle would serve well as one final challenge and a logical progression for the fighting veteran. Should this deal be concluded Hunt could find himself head to head with lineal Bare Knuckle Heavyweight Champion and former IBA Cruiserweight Champion Bobby Gunn, in a real people’s main-event.
Thiago Silva has been a main stay of the sport of mixed martial arts for the past 14 years and during his lengthy career has scored many a memorable knockout. One look at a Thiago Silva highlight video on YouTube and you’ll see why he’s perfect for Bare Knuckle. The man is plain and simple a savage. With plenty of crossover appeal and contractual availability, companies should at least be taking a closer look at the Brazilian who would certainly lend the fans some incredible fights. Should Silva sign on the dotted line we could see him throw down with fellow UFC veteran Kendall Grove in what would undoubtedly be a war.
One of the most wildly underrepresented demographics in Bare Knuckle Boxing is the Asian one. A crucial building block in the success of any fighting discipline, there is one man perfectly crafted to lead the charge for Eastern backing, Hiroyuki Takaya. The former Dream Featherweight Champion last fought in December 2017, but as of yet has announced no plans of retirement so could well be one for the shortlists of various Bare Knuckle companies. The fittingly named ‘Streetfight Bancho’ is a fan favourite noted for his unrelenting pressure and vicious right hand; certainly a lethal combination in a sport which tests grit and determination of which Takaya has in abundance.
Steve Bosse recently made a switch from MMA to Boxing after a promising run in the UFC was put to an end by a string of injuries, yet Bosse has not retired from combat sports altogether and as of yet is awaiting his next fight. The Canadian slugger is accustomed to throwing down without gloves, as a former Hockey enforcer in the early to late 2000’s, making the transition to Bare Knuckle Boxing a natural one. Bosse brings with him an infamous reputation as one of the best Bare Knuckle boxers on ice, but how will he fair on dry land? I certainly think he would take the sport by storm and hope he puts pen to paper on a lucrative deal.
Professional boxer and mixed martial artist Fabio Maldonado is a man always up for a challenge. The Brazilian has faced tough competition throughout his career and has overcome adversity on more than one occasion. Complete with experience, heart and blunt force trauma, Fabio Maldonado certainly ticks all the boxes of a Bare Knuckle fighter and is currently not tied down by any sport or federation. With plenty of fight still left in him this rugged veteran could well be on his way to a new sport in Bare Knuckle Boxing and if so would undoubtedly serve as a worthy test to any hungry prospect.