Is Friday’s Diego Sanchez-Austin Trout bare-knuckle fight – lion vs. tiger, MMA fighter vs. boxer – the first of its kind?
No, not even close. In the brief but progressively successful history of the Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship, it happens all the time.
Several factors, though, make Sanchez-Trout box-office gold for the BKFC; a crowd of at least 8,000 is expected. There certainly are other factors in play, but Sanchez-Trout clearly is a powerful draw.
First and most obvious: these are New Mexicans fighting in New Mexico, a featured battle at KnuckleMania 3 at Tingley Coliseum.
Second, there’s curiosity. It’s the first bare-knuckle fight for both men.
Third, there’s Sanchez’s immense popularity. Many New Mexico fight fans have loved him for years. OK, decades – he’s 41 (Trout is 37) and has been fighting professionally since 2002. His most ardent fans would pay to watch him shadowbox.
Fourth, there’s a contrast of styles: Trout the artist in the ring, nicknamed “No Doubt,” Sanchez the wild man in the cage, nicknamed “Nightmare.”
Fifth and perhaps most intriguing: it’s not so much their chosen sports but each man’s stature in those pursuits – Trout a former boxing world champion, Sanchez the UFC’s first The Ultimate Fighter champion – that makes this matchup special.
Predictably, each man believes his style will prevail (Trout is a prohibitive betting favorite). Both, however, said they’re fully prepared to fight the other guy’s fight if and when necessary.
Trout, in interviews on Wednesday, said he fully intends to use the movement and hand speed that have made him so successful in the ring.
“I’d be stupid not to,” he said.
He’s been smart enough in preparation, though, to get accustomed to the holding behind the head and punching in the clinch that BKFC rules permit.
“I’ve done a few (training sessions) in a row,” he said, “just clinching and fighting. Dirty boxing, if you will. And I wish I was using those tactics a lot more (in some of his boxing matches), because I’m pretty good at it.”
Sanchez, meanwhile, has used Albuquerque boxer Josh Torres as his principal trainer for Friday’s fight. Torres has sparred many rounds with Trout and knows his style, and Sanchez has viewed film of Torres-Trout sparring sessions.
“I’ve learned a lot from Josh,” Sanchez said. “… It’s taken me to another level, and the brotherhood that I’ve gained from this man (Torres) is tremendous.”
It’s his own MMA background, though, Sanchez, believes, that gives him a huge advantage in this matchup.
“I don’t respect (Trout’s) style,” he said, “because you cannot do his style in this sport. This is not boxing.
“… He likes to stay at a distance, pop the jab and set up counters, and that ain’t gonna work with me. … He’s gonna feel some Nightmare, I’m telling you. It’s coming.”
Trout said he’s seen some of Sanchez’s interviews and considers it pure bluster.
“I don’t think he believes it,” Trout said. “When you see me, I believe everything I say. And I’m going to whup his ass on Friday.”
Friday’s fight, Sanchez said, might well be the last of his 21-year professional fighting career.
But, he added, we all might be in the last days.
“The way the world’s going right now,” he said, “I feel like God’s coming back and I’m rapture ready. I’m ready for the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Before Sanchez meets his maker, Trout said, he has a date with Trout’s knuckles.
“You know what they say about the dying lion or the dying tiger, it’s most dangerous,” Trout said. “So I have not taken this lightly.
“But, yeah, I believe I’m gonna retire him.”
Sanchez weighed in on Thursday at 165 pounds, Trout at 165.4. Sanchez has fought at weights as high as 185 pounds during his MMA career but campaigned mostly at 170 and 155.
Trout won his world title at 154 pounds but fought as heavy as 165 early in his career.