Depending on how his contract standoff with the UFC plays out, Francis Ngannou could become one of the most coveted free agents in MMA history in 2023.
If that is the case, David Feldman from BKFC has promised to try his hand at convincing the UFC Heavyweight Champion to box in the bare-knuckle ring.
“I don’t know if he is out of that window but we are definitely making a play to him,” Feldman stated Wednesday at The MMA Hour .
” At that point, we’re talking money. If we have the money to back it up, then we are in the game. To be completely honest, I do not think that we are out of the game at this time. We have a good partner that we just partnered with that likes to think outside the box, likes to disrupt things as we do, and I think that there’s a great opportunity for us to get the biggest and best names out there.”
That aforementioned new partner is Triller, the big-spending social media company that expanded into fight promotion in 2020 and recently acquired a majority stake in the BKFC.
Feldman stated Wednesday that he believes the BKFC can afford to enter the Ngannou sweepstakes and offer a good deal with Triller’s help.
The BKFC has been a significant player for MMA free agents in recent years, with the promotion inking notable UFC names to contracts such as Mike Perry, Chad Mendes, Paige VanZant, and more. Another popular former UFC fighter who was briefly connected to the BKFC is The Ultimate Figher 1 winner Diego Sanchez, however the deal never came together and the 20-year veteran ultimately signed with Khabib Nurmagomedov’s MMA organization Eagle FC, where he is slated to debut in a 165-pound bout on March 11 against Kevin Lee.
According to Feldman Sanchez is still on BKFC’s radar. A fight in bare-knuckle fighting could be offered to him if he does well against Lee.
“Diego, I was just a little bit concerned about everything that was going on with him,” Feldman said. Feldman said that he was concerned about Diego’s behavior and decided to give it a try. He wanted to fight at Eagle [FC].. He’s been texting me [so], and we’ll watch what happens at that fight. He should come over to BKFC so that we can see the results.
“At the end of the day, I really want to make sure that these fighters’ health and well-being are looked after or taken care of more than anything, so if it looks like in this upcoming fight that he can perform great, I’d love to bring him over. He’s an incredible name, a great fighter and legend in the sport .”
Feldman also addressed the status of another former UFC star, VanZant, who has been out of action since a July 2021 loss to Rachael Ostovich dropped her record to 0-2 in the BKFC ring. The BKFC president said he’s currently in discussions with VanZant on a potential return and expects to have a firmer answer after her husband Austin Vanderford challenges Gegard MousasiB for the Bellator middleweight title Friday at Bellator 275.
“I think so,” Feldman said. “We’re in talks with them right now. She would be a great addition to our family in the late spring or early summer. That’s what we’re talking about. She needs to see her own head. I think you had her husband on [The MMA Hour] today, so I think they want to get through that fight first before they talk about what’s next for her.”
VanZant’s signing in 2020 was a watershed moment for the BKFC as the Dancing With The Stars runner-up was the most recognizable mainstream name to join a sport and promotion still battling for legitimacy in the public eye. VanZant’s two appearances with BKFC have generated significant interest within the fight world, however she has struggled to acclimatize herself to bare-knuckle boxing, losing to both Britain Hart and Ostovich.
Feldman said he has no regrets about signing VanZant and would “definitely” make the same decision again if he was given the chance for a do-over.
“At that time, it was the most money that I ever spent on an event, and it was also the most money I’ve ever brought into an event,” Feldman said.
“So, it worked. It didn’t work [sometimes]. Because not every celebrity that comes up for free agency is going to be a good fit for our organization, I won’t accept them all. Some names are more valuable than others, and they will bring us those types of eyes. And that’s why we spend that kind of money on those kinds of fighters.”
As for other big names the BKFC could be eyeballing following its acquisition by Triller, Feldman said he expects more professional boxers to begin testing the waters in bare-knuckle boxing after the first wave of converts have primarily been MMA fighters.
” I think that the boxers seem a bit more cautious to enter there now,” Feldman stated. Feldman said, “But that’s changing. Because we’re being reached out by many top-tier fighters now. Mixed martial arts is a different kind of fighting. You’re hitting with an elbow and a shin. It’s the same thing as a bare hand. The boxers don’t know if it is worth getting hit with such blunt objects. But now we’re starting to get a lot more come over.
“I think I put two rules into Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship that I call the great equalizer. But the real one is the muay Thai clinch, when they grab the back of a boxer’s neck, it just throws the boxer really off their game. This is where I believe the mixed martial arts have an advantage. However, the boxers are clearly better. Are they more tough? Who’s tougher? Who can take what in this sport, and that’s who really wins. As you can see, this is a completely different sport. To fight in this sport you must be different from other animals and have different levels of toughness. And I think that we have, I won’t say that we have the most skilled fighters in the world, all around, but we definitely have the baddest fighters in the world in our organization.”