Could Sanchez be part of state's bare knuckles fighting debut? - Albuquerque Journal

Could Sanchez be part of state’s bare knuckles fighting debut?

Diego Sanchez kicks Michel Pereira in the face as he works his way off his back in their fight. Saturday, Feb. 15, 2019. (Jim Thompson/Journal)

New Mexico’s first bare-knuckle fighting card has been scheduled for Dec. 4 at the Rio Rancho Event Center.

Not coincidentally, Albuquerque MMA legend Diego Sanchez appears ready to enter the bare-knuckle stage.

The New Mexico Athletic Commission on Tuesday approved a Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship card for that date during the commission’s monthly meeting, held via Cisco WebEx.

Earlier this month, BKFC President David Feldman was already talking about prospective opponents for Sanchez, though it’s not clear that Sanchez actually has signed with the organization.

In an interview with, Feldman mentioned Isaac Vallie-Flagg and Leonard Garcia, both former teammates of Sanchez’s at Albuquerque’s Jackson-Wink MMA, as possibilities.

Garcia and Vallie-Flagg have both fought on BKFC cards. Garcia announced his retirement from combat sports in March, but Vallie-Flagg and Sanchez posted on Twitter that they’ve love to take the gloves off and fight each other in front of the home folks.

“This is the fight to make!” Vallie-Flagg wrote. “(Sanchez) and myself will put on a show for the state.”

Feldman made it clear in his interview with MMA Fighting that he was targeting Sanchez’s debut for a December show in New Mexico.

Vallie-Flagg (16-7-1 as an MMA fighter) is 3-1 in bare-knuckle fights, 2-1 in BKFC competition.

Of course, with the ever-changeable Sanchez, nothing is certain.

“When a plan fails,” Sanchez posted Saturday on Twitter, “You cut your (losses) and rebuild.” The reference is unclear.

The BKFC, founded in 2018, as become the predominant bare-knuckle fighting circuit. Feldman has staged 22 cards, seven thus far in 2021.

In anticipation of bare-knuckle fighting coming to the state, the athletic commission in recent months formulated a specific set of rules to regulate that activity.

FIDEL OUT: Fidel Maldonado Jr. will not fight as previously announced on the scheduled Oct. 16 Legacy Promotions card at the Convention Center, the Albuquerque lightweight posted on Facebook.

“Due to personal reasons and physical reasons I will not be fighting October 16th. I will be back soon …,” Maldonado wrote.

Maldonado (27-5-1, 20 knockouts), without doubt the most accomplished Albuquerque professional boxer of recent years, last fought on Feb. 1, 2020 — losing to rising contender Michel Rivera (now 21-0) by 10th-round TKO.

Still scheduled to appear on the Oct. 16 card are brothers Aaron Angel Perez and Abraham Perez, son and nephew, respectively, of the co-promoters, brothers Aaron and Jordan Perez.

Aaron Angel Perez (10-0-1, six KOs) is designated for the main event in a junior lightweight bout against Diego Elizondo (3-2-3) of Carson, City, Nevada.

Elizondo’s modest record belies the strength-of-schedule factor he brings to the fight. His eight opponents have a combined record of 19-3.

He’s also a southpaw, the second lefty in a row that Perez has faced. The Albuquerquean fought to an eight-round draw with highly touted southpaw prospect Raymond Ford in Dallas on March 13.

Abraham Perez, the 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials champion, passed over for Olympic qualification by USA Boxing, is listed as fighting Kenneth Jamerson (0-2) of Muskegon, Michigan in a flyweight bout.

That could change, given that Jamerson lost a bout by stoppage on Friday in Nashville, Tenn., and could be facing a 30-day suspension.

Fidel Maldonado Sr., his son’s trainer and manager, said Maldonado Jr. has been struggling with sciatic pain. But he also said, that while he understands Legacy Promotions’ family connections, he felt his son deserved to fight the main event on Oct. 16.

“He’s been a Latino champion, a Fecarbox champion,” the elder Maldonado Sr. said. “He’s one of the top names around here, still.”

Maldonado Sr. said he’s looking for opportunities elsewhere.

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