After victories in the Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship (BKFC) Lightweight Tournament semifinals earlier this year, Reggie Barnett and Johnny Bedford will square off for the first ever BKFC Lightweight Title as part of pay-per-view action Saturday, June 22 from Florida State Fairgrounds Expo Hall in Tampa, Fla.
“BKFC 6: The Line Is Drawn” is headlined by a highly anticipated grudge match between former boxing world champion Paulie “The Magic Man” Malignaggi and UFC veteran Artem “The Russian Hammer” Lobov.
The event will be broadcast across the United States and Canada, exclusively on pay-per-view through MultiVision Media, Inc., on all major television distribution outlets for $39.99. It will also be available worldwide via stream to all in-home and out-of-home connected devices at FITE-TV and www.bareknuckle.tv.
Tickets for “BKFC 6″ The Line Is Drawn” are available now exclusively at www.bareknuckle.tv. Florida will become the latest state to host a BKFC event after previous contests have been held in Wyoming and Mississippi, plus an event that took place in Cancun, Mexico.
Ahead of their championship showdown, Barnett and Bedford discuss their bare knuckle fighting experiences, what fans should expect June 22 and more:
What were your expectations coming into BKFC? What has surprised you about the bare knuckle style of fighting?
Reggie Barnett: “When I signed on with BKFC, I wanted a platform to show off my hand-to-hand combat skills. But nothing has really surprised me about this fighting style. I’ve just been rolling with the punches and preparing myself as best I can for these opportunities.”
Johnny Bedford: “I got the opportunity to be part of BKFC 1, and at that point I just believed bare knuckle fighting would be a sport that I’d be good at. I also wanted to be part of something new and different. I’ve fought all over the world and for various organizations, but this was an exciting new opportunity that I jumped at. I felt like this sport is tailor made for me and I wanted to make history in this sport.
“I’ve been amazed by how fast the sport has grown. (BKFC Founder and President) David Feldman has done a great job getting it legalized, and now only a year later we’re already on our sixth event. You watch the social media and attention that we’re getting and the organization is obviously doing a lot of the right things. I’m just thrilled to be a part of it and have my name attached.”
How do you think you can improve off of your last BKFC performances?
RB: “People want to see stoppages. Johnny keeps saying I haven’t stopped anyone in bare knuckle yet, but at the same time everyone that has stepped into the ring with me has left bloody and battered. So, I’m just working on getting stronger and planning on stopping Johnny in this fight. But win, lose or draw I come out to put on the best performance that I can.”
JB: “My performance at BKFC 5 was pretty flawless, but there’s always something to improve on. I got hit a few times that I probably shouldn’t have, but I didn’t take a lot of negatives away from that bout. Against Murphy at BKFC 3, however, a lot of people don’t know that I went into that fight already having a broken hand. So, I had to use a lot of clinching to get through that one. My hands are great now though, and I plan on fighting my type of fight against Barnett.”
How do you think your past fighting background prepared you for bare knuckle?
RB: “Especially with this event, they’re putting a lot of fighters with boxing backgrounds versus fighters with MMA backgrounds. I’ve fought my whole life and I’ve fought nearly every style out there. So, I feel like I’m more prepared than anyone else in this game. Most everyone else has stuck to one discipline. I’ve got a very versatile background.”
JB: “I’ve competed at the highest level of combat sports. The big lights and the pay-per-view stage don’t seem to affect me as much as other guys. But I don’t necessarily think an MMA background makes you a good bare knuckle fighter, and neither does a background in boxing. This sport is not made for everyone. You have to be specifically suited for bare knuckle. As it happened, I had a pretty rough young adulthood that actually involved getting in a lot of bare knuckle fights outside of the ring. Those experiences, for better or worse, helped me realize then that I’m caught from a different cloth.
“Some people can’t handle getting hit in the face with bare knuckles. I never had a problem with that. Skills still matter a lot, but in this sport more so than any other, toughness matters. A lot of guys think they can do bare knuckle, but then they get in there and they find out the truth.”
What do you know about your opponent? What do you expect the fight to look like stylistically?
RB: “I know Johnny is a gamer who likes to come forward, he taunts his opponents and he hits hard. But I’m ready for all of that. I have so many different tools that I’m ready for whatever he brings to the table on June 22.”
JB: “Reggie and I met at BKFC 1 and we both put on one-sided performances in Wyoming. After our fights, we went to David Feldman and said we wanted to see about fighting each other in a similar style tournament to what BKFC was doing with their heavyweight bracket. David agreed, and I think BKFC knew what they were doing when they put Reggie and I on opposite sides of the lightweight bracket.
“Reggie moves well and he’s a fast, athletic and experienced boxer. What he doesn’t do is, he can’t bust a grape. He has won all of his fights by decision. If he couldn’t finish those guys, he’s not finishing me. I give him credit for being a good boxer, but he’s not as tough as me. I’m going to move forward, and I can finish him.”
What would it mean to you to capture the first lightweight championship in BKFC history?
RB: “In a nutshell, capturing this title would mean everything. I’ve been working toward this my whole life. I got a little sidetracked, but deep down I’ve always been a fighter. I’m grateful for David Feldman getting this off the ground so that myself and other fighters have this new opportunity. I’ve dreamed of something like this my whole life. There have been thousands of boxing champions, but this is my chance to become the first bare knuckle champion in this division in 130 years. I’m coming to put everything on the line.”
JB: “This is a huge opportunity for me to enter my name in the history books of combat sports. I get to be the first guy to capture the BKFC Lightweight Championship title and prove that I’m the best lightweight in this sport. It’s obviously job security also because they would have to bring me back to defend my belt. But however BKFC 6 turns out, I plan on being with BKFC for a while.”
What’s your prediction for the fight?
RB: “I think we’re both coming for each other. The initial clash is going to be hard and exciting. But at the same time, my hands are educated. We’ll see whose skill shines through in this matchup. I can brawl. I can box. I can do it all. Johnny can only do one thing, brawl. That’s it. When I get in there, it’s my life or his life and I like to breathe.”
JB: “I predict I’ll be chasing him for as long as it takes. I hope he stays in the center of the ring and comes for me. But I think I’ll have to cut him off, chase him down and touch him up. I think it’ll be a fourth-round stoppage for me. I’ll hit him more times than he’ll be able to handle. I’m not out there to win decisions. I’m coming to knock him out.”