Bare-knuckle fighting: The fastest growing combat sport in the world
In 1993, the Ultimate Fighting Championship changed mixed martial arts and combat sports forever. It was an amalgamation of fighters and fight styles all under one roof – or octagon. The great thing about those salad days of UFC was there was no MMA style. Fighters came as they were, they didn’t wear Muay Thai gloves, could wear shoes, there wasn’t specified MMA gear, and bouts were open weight. It was also said there were “no rules” when it came to bouts in the octagon.
Those glory days of UFC and MMA are over due to the need to make it more mainstream and wholly accepted by society.
In 2018, an idea verging on that original UFC concept was introduced to the world by long-time boxing promoter David Feldman. Okay, the idea only took one aspect from the original fight league and that was bare-knuckle fighting.
The rise of bare-knuckle fighting
Although it seems strange that combat sports would go from gloved fighting back to bare knuckles, it isn’t really. Combat sports has come a long way since the days of UFC being banned in various cities and American politicians fighting against it.
Combat sports is more widely accepted by the mainstream and media outlets from all over the world cover it.
Bare Knuckle Fight Club, more commonly known as Bare Knuckle FC, was born out of Feldman’s desire to promote the art of fighting without Muay Thai gloves or cliched MMA gear. Bare Knuckle FC may be the biggest gloveless fight promotion right now, but it isn’t the only one. Like as what happened with the UFC, a number of smaller fight promotions have popped up with a rogue's gallery of fighters.
From former UFC battlers such as Artem Lobov to tough guys that have trained at local gyms, bare-knuckles fighting is attracting competitors in droves.
It isn’t just fighters that are flocking to the fights. The number of fans is growing to see the art of the bare-knuckle battle. The desire to see former UFC fighters in a squared circle battling without Muay Thai gloves has been the catalyst for many viewers to tune into Bare Knuckle FC events. With a growing popularity, the fight league may not be far off of reaching the main steam thanks to the path blazed by UFC.
What are the rules of bare-knuckle fighting?
It is easy for onlookers to see bare-knuckle fighting and believe there are no rules to the bouts. That isn’t the case, but the rules are very simple.
“Two fighters with their wrists and thumbs taped but knuckles exposed, enter a circular ring for five to seven rounds, two minutes in length–or nine rounds for championship bouts.
Is bare-knuckle fighting safe?
Tune into a Bare Knuckle FC bout and there is a good chance you will see two fighters with blood streaming down their faces. At least those are the images that the fight league and many sports websites publish. It looks brutal in the squared circle. A proverbial no-man's land for the weak of heart. But bare-knuckle fighting has long been held as a much safer sport than UFC and boxing with Muay Thai gloves affixed to the hands.
So, how can fighting without Muay Thai gloves and MMA gear be safe? The simplest answer is it hurts to punch something. The bones in the hands can become damaged and break when they make contact with the bones in the face and head. Boxing and MMA that mandate fighters wear Muay Thai gloves can continue to punch repeatedly because their hands are protected. It can become more punishing to the person being hit.
Gloves can influence a fighter to continue to punch repeatedly and as hard as possible. Bare-knuckles fighting has an art to it. Punch too much or too hard and you risk breaking your hand. Break your hand and you literally become a one-armed man – or women – in a fight. Boxers run the risk of head injuries and dementia due to the repeated blows they take the head. Gloves protect the hands and keep fighters’ hands fit to fire on the cranium resulting in worse brain damage.
There is a caveat to not wearing boxing gloves. A single shot with the knuckle can be far more lethal than the same shot with a fist covered in Muay Thai gloves. The knuckles are like little razor blades when they connect with the thin skin around the eyes and on the forehead. A well-placed strike can break the skin; therefore, bloody bouts do occur.
The spread of bare-knuckle fighting
The United States isn’t the only country where bare knuckle boxing is rising in popularity. The United Kingdom, a country that loves boxing, UFC, and even pro wrestling, has also jumped on the bandwagon. Bare-knuckle fight promotions have popped up with events across the country.
The large number of former UFC, Bellator, and other minor combat sport promotions around the world means there is a large pool of fighters to pick from.
In the US, Bare Knuckle FC has promoted six events since June 2018. In less than a year, the promotion has pushed hard and gained a reputation for its punishing entertainment. Wyoming, Mississippi, and Florida are the only states to host the promotion’s events thus far. Sanctions around wearing Muay Thai gloves and MMA gear can limit Bare Knuckle FC’s options for places to run shows.
Bare-knuckle fighting has the same stigma that UFC once had. The combat sport must overcome the views that many people have and prove it is just as much an athletic competition as the other two.
At one time, people shuddered at the thought of the UFC. Television and media outlets like ESPN, the BBC, and CBC shied away from covering events. Those days are gone, and now bare-knuckle fighting must travel the same path for mainstream acceptance.
For most people right now, the combat sport is just one they will watch out of curiosity. But before long, it could be just as common as wearing mma gloves gloves during a UFC fight.