Another combat sport could soon be headed to the “Fight Capital of the World.”
On Tuesday, BKFC representatives presented in front of the Nevada Athletic Commission about the possibility of sanctioning bareknuckle boxing in the state. On hand to make their case in front of commission members were BKFC president David Feldman and commentator Sean Wheelock. BKFC chief medical officer Dr. Don Muzzi joined the meeting via teleconference.
“Bareknuckle, you would think, your perception if you never watched it before, you would think it’s different than what it really is,” Feldman said when informed NAC chair Dallas Haun had never watched a bareknuckle boxing match. “… It’s growing faster than any other combat sport in the world ever. It’s growing very, very fast. I’ll tell you why: because it’s very relatable to everybody.
… Everybody in the world knows what a bareknuckle punch is. They can get behind it. They can associate with it, and that’s why our fan base is really, really growing, and we’re getting the best fighters in the world now.”
No decision on officially sanctioning bareknuckle boxing was reached Tuesday, as the agenda item was not up for vote. However, the two parties’ conversation largely projected positive. The discussion could resume with an actual vote at a future commission meeting.
“We’re going to take this under advisement, and we’ll get back to you,” Haun said at the conclusion of the discussion. “We really appreciate you coming in. It’s exciting. I’m glad to hear about the safety, and I’m surprised about the broken hand (rate). I thought it would be much higher, so some of these things are much better than I thought.”
Muzzi, who said he has worked for BKFC for approximately five years and is the president of the Association of Ringside Physicians, gave a brief presentation that compared and contrasted the safety between boxing, MMA, and bareknuckle boxing.
Besides facial lacerations (35 percent in BKFC, as opposed to 13.5 in MMA and 8.7 in boxing), Muzzi provided statistics that indicated bareknuckle (or at least BKFC) is safer or on par with other combat sports in terms of fight-related injuries. Muzzi cited two peer-reviewed medical journals, including one he conducted in 2022.
According to Muzzi, the concussion rate in BKFC has been 4.6 percent (as opposed to 12 percent in boxing, 14.7 percent in MMA); the orbital fracture rate 1.8 percent (as opposed to 2.8 percent in MMA); and the hand injury rate 3.1 percent (equal to boxing, slightly less than MMA’s 3.8 percent).
Since BKFC’s conception in 2017, Muzzi said there have been 681 fights and 45 medical transports. Sixteen fighters were sent for intracranial pathology scans with all tests negative. One fighter had a subdural hematoma in an area of their brain, but it was unclear if it was due to a previous injury.
Muzzi also mentioned the 2021 death of Justin Thornton, a fighter who died after suffering a spinal cord injury in a fight.
“He sustained a hematoma or swelling in his cervical spinal cord,” Muzzi said. “That did result in a fatality six weeks down the road – really unrelated to the sport, more to the fall.”
According to Feldman, BKFC has held 75 events since it’s inaugural card in 2018 and plans to really ramp up the frequency this year. Feldman estimates BKFC will hold 52 events in 2024.
“The next, most important thing after safety is what can we do? Do we sell tickets? Do we create revenue here?” Feldman said. “We’re one of the only promotions, really one of the top three or four promotions in the world, that are really selling tickets: 7,000, 8,000, 9,000, 10,000-plus tickets. We feel, if we come here to Vegas, whatever arena we’re in aside from that football stadium, we’ll have a lot of luck filling that out.
“We get a lot of viewership. We’re actually in heavy talks with two major networks, too, to get broadcast rights fees, as well, so that would create more revenue for the state as well.”