When Bare Knuckle Fighting Championships first launched in 2018, the newly formed promotion was already battling against the perception that their version of combat sports was far too brutal even when compared to MMA or boxing.
Of course, BKFC president David Feldman had a much different ideal about the bare-knuckle fighting but he also understood that it was going to be an uphill battle against the court of public opinion.
Nearly three years later as BKFC embarks on their final card of 2020 — the 15th “numbered” event in the promotion’s history — Feldman now has statistics to back up his initial claims that bare-knuckle fights were no more dangerous to an athlete’s health than participating in other combat sports.
The results of a study performed over two and a half years and 131 fights was released at the annual conference of the Association of Boxing Commissions as presented by Dr. Don Muzzi with research regarding injuries and concussions sustained by athletes competing in bare-knuckle competition.
According to the findings, bare-knuckle fights produced a higher rate of facial lacerations but the concussion rate as well as the rate for broken hands or hand fractures were lower than both boxing and MMA.
The study showed that bare-knuckle fighters who exhibited concussion like symptoms when examined by a ringside physician was 1.5 percent compared to boxing with an estimated rate of 6 to 12 percent and MMA with a rate of 14.7 percent.
“The thing I’ve always pitched it as this — I never said BKFC is safer than boxing or MMA. What I did always say is it’s no more dangerous,” Feldman said about the study when speaking to MMA Fighting. “I’ve been saying this for 10 years trying to get states to legalize me. Before, I was pitching on the research I did and what we thought was going to happen. Now we have statistics. We have two and a half years of research proving that our sport is no more dangerous that boxing or MMA.
“I’m happy that those studies came out. It’s spreading like wildfire in the athletic commissions across the United States, so that’s awesome for us there. All combat sports are dangerous. Anything can happen in boxing, MMA or Bare Knuckle Fighting Championships. We’re just happy that it’s no more dangerous than those other sports and we can hopefully push this through with all the other states. That’s what we think this study is going to do for us.”
Since initially getting approval to hold events in Wyoming, BKFC has branched out to several other states including numerous events in Florida as well as the upcoming BKFC 15 card in Biloxi, Miss. on Dec. 11.
Feldman has been incredibly encouraged by the way audiences have embraced bare-knuckle events and he’s hoping a study like this one will help dispel some of the misgivings about the sport from the larger combat sports community.
He’s obviously happy that the study was conducted but Feldman knows the fight to get more widespread approval for bare-knuckle bouts is still ongoing.
“It was a sense of vindication because this is what we’ve been saying and now the studies are actually very compelling and stating exactly what we’ve been saying,” Feldman said. “That was tremendous. The other thing that I’ve learned is no matter what you put out anywhere, people will find a way to say something crazy.
“The study came out, people were talking about it and they were saying ‘they don’t have enough data, it’s only two and a half years.’ You can’t satisfy everybody. It’s crazy. But us as an organization, to have that study come out, those numbers come out, it’s a tremendous asset for us to have.”
With BKFC 15 set for Friday night featuring a heavyweight world title eliminator between Sam Shewmaker and Bobo O’Bannon along with a co-main event featuring British boxer Tyler Goodjohn taking on Charles “Felony” Bennett, Feldman is excited about the direction BKFC is headed into 2021 and beyond.
With a planned event during Super Bowl weekend that is expected to feature the debut of former UFC star Paige VanZant, Feldman believes it’s only onward and upward for BKFC, especially after very trying year with the pandemic.
“I think it says a lot if you’re going to be successful in anything, is how you do during a time of adversity,” Feldman said. “We were handed this as everybody else in the world was, a lot of adversity. I thought that we navigated through this pandemic properly and it’s so exciting with all the fan base we’ve gained. Our fan base has basically doubled in the past four months so that’s tremendous for us during this time. I don’t know if we could say that about a lot of other combat sports organizations but it didn’t hold us back at all.
“We found a way to do things during this pandemic, to make some good signings and add great people to this card. Life isn’t easy but to be able to navigate through this thing, we’re very, very happy for what 2021 is going to bring for us.”