Austin Trout enters his Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship debut brimming with confidence.
It’s a confidence that stems from a 42-fight professional boxing career that saw him capture the WBA light middleweight title and square off against the likes of Canelo Alvarez, Jermell Charlo, Jermall Charlo, Miguel Cotto and Erislandy Lara. It also comes from believing that the BKFC roster is populated with former mixed martial arts fighters whose boxing abilities won’t be able to match his own. The Las Cruces native believes that includes Diego Sanchez, his opponent in the BKFC: Knucklemania 3 co-main event at Tingley Coliseum on Feb. 17.
“I’m gonna beat him up until he can’t get beat up no more,” Trout said at a press conference on Thursday. “I do not believe Diego has the hands to deal with me. In fact, I don’t believe any of the MMA fighters in the BKFC – past, present or future – are gonna have the hands to deal with me. I plan on proving that.”
As a winner on the first season of “The Ultimate Fighter,” Sanchez was instrumental in putting both the UFC and Albuquerque MMA on the map. However, the former Del Norte High state champion wrestler made his name in the Octagon thanks to his relentless grappling, conditioning and toughness – not his boxing. Sanchez, who will also be making his BKFC debut, nonetheless believes the bare knuckle realm offers plenty of opportunities to showcase his skills.
“I never really liked the gloves in the UFC anyway,” Sanchez said. “I felt like without the gloves on, I was a better puncher. The punches would get in better, they were harder to block. I felt that was a more pure way to fight.
“I was already interested. It’s the rule setting and it’s the dynamics of being able to actively strike in the clinch. I’m built for that … .”
Though Trout would seem to be a considerable favorite in his welterweight (165-pound) clash with Sanchez, he acknowledges that BKFC is a different animal. That’s why other boxers such as Paulie Malignaggi and DeMarcus Corley have tried and failed at the sport.
“There’s definitely been adjustments that needed to be made. I’ve made those adjustments. I’m not gonna go into detail about them, but it’s not the same game as just boxing,” Trout said. “I’m damn good at what I do.”
Sanchez will be making his first combat sports appearance since March of last year, when he lost to fellow UFC veteran Kevin Lee in an MMA bout under the Eagle Fighting Championship banner.
“As far as how many times I’m gonna do (BKFC), I don’t know,” Sanchez said. “I love this sport, and two-minute rounds? Compared to five (rounds), that’s a sprint for me. That’s a sprint up the hill. This is a gonna be a Burque dark alley street fight. This ain’t boxing. This is gangsta s – t.”
SELLING THE DRAMA: Things got testy between headliners Lorenzo Hunt and Mike Richman during Thursday’s presser. The combatants traded barbs before scuffling, which resulted in both fighters briefly tumbling off the back of the dais and knocking over the backdrop in the process. Eventually Richman and Hunt were separated.
“It’s not something that we want,” BKFC president Dave Feldman said. “We don’t want to have these kind of antics up here. At the end of the day, you have two guys that are ‘A’ personalities that think they’re the baddest man on the planet that go face to face and don’t really like each other. Sometimes this type of thing is gonna happen. Unfortunately it happened here.”
DREAMING BIG: Former UFC flyweight title challenger and Albuquerque resident John Dodson will be making his second BKFC appearance after earning a 40-second knockout victory in August. “The Magician” since has scored a first-round TKO of Hideo Tokoro in Japan in an MMA bout on New Year’s Eve for Japanese organization Rizin Fighting Federation. Dodson has big aspirations heading into 2023.
“I love the fact that Rizin is going to let me be a champion and the same thing with BKFC,” Dodson said. “I will hold both of those titles very soon.”
Feldman said the winner of the matchup between Dodson and Jarod Grant could be in line to challenge for the inaugural BKFC flyweight title down the road.
MYSTERY REVEALED: BKFC advertised the appearance of a mystery fighter prior to Thursday’s event. That turned out to be former Dallas Cowboy and UFC veteran Greg Hardy, who was signed by the promotion several months ago. Hardy will face Josh Watson at Knucklemania 3.