Despite BKFC 56 going head-to-head with UFC Austin on Saturday, David Feldman, the president behind the world’s biggest bare-knuckle fighting promotion, doesn’t see this as competition.
Feldman, who launched BKFC back in 2018, continues to carve out his own niche in combat sports, building a roster that includes plenty of MMA fighters, boxers and other combat sports veterans who want to test themselves in the bare-knuckle fighting arena.
“I’m not competing with Bellator, PFL or UFC – I’m competing with BKFC,” Feldman told MMA Fighting. “That’s all we’re competing with. Can we get fans to like this lane? We’re a different lane, and if they want a little more brutal violence, if you will, and blood, and these guys going out there and banging it out, this is what we have for you.
“Listen, it’s not for everybody, but the fans that love this, we have a cult following now. Close to 200,000 subscribers on our app now. I mean this thing is just going crazy for us, and we’re really happy with where it’s been, and especially where it’s going, and all this stuff that’s happening in combat sports is great, because there’s a lot of interest in combat sports. That’s great for us. That’s great for the fighters. That’s great for all the other organizations, as well.”
The only avenue where Feldman feels like he might have to fight with the UFC, PFL or other promotions is talent under free agency. BKFC has become a major player in that area in recent years, with even UFC superstar Conor McGregor teasing interest in bare-knuckle before his career is finished.
Outside of pursuing the best possible talent in a finite pool, Feldman said he has no reason to turn adversarial towards other promoters just because they exist in a similar space.
“There’s fans for all this,” he said. “There’s so many combat sports fans out there. There’s so many platforms out there. There’s room for a lot of people to be here. I think the only thing we compete for with all of the promotions is some of the fighters. But other than that, we all have what we’re doing, and we can all co-exist.”
Perhaps the biggest recent shift in combat sports is the news that the PFL acquired Bellator, which clearly puts that organization in the No. 2 position behind the UFC in MMA. PFL founder Donn Davis plans to honor all of the contracts that existed at Bellator, transitioning everyone to the new company.
As ambitious as that sounds, the PFL — like the UFC and every other major promotion — will eventually cut ties with some athletes. Some may be released, and others could opt not to re-sign with the PFL but there will be notable names on the open market in the future.
While Feldman offered nothing but congratulations to the PFL on closing the deal to buy Bellator, he knows that there will be an opportunity for BKFC to add some new talent to its roster but he also made it clear that not everyone will fit under the bare-knuckle model.
“We’ve already got a slew of guys who reached out the past couple of days,” Feldman revealed. “Even the past couple of weeks leading up to this thing. That’s great for those guys what they’re doing, but they can’t hold onto all those fighters.
“We don’t just want any free agent. We want free agents that are going to make sense for BKFC, and whether they come from Bellator, PFL, UFC, ONE, wherever they come from, professional boxing, and plus the guys we’re building up on our own. We’re really, really putting a lot of effort into building our own stars now, and I think that’s going to be a key to our success, starting at a grassroots level.
“But yeah, our eyes are open. Our ears are open, and if the right guy comes around, we’re already all over it. We already have two under verbal agreements right now, and we should be able to make those announcements here in the next week.”
Feldman also teased a long-rumored television deal in the works for BKFC, though he can’t say for certain when or if it will close. He does know finding a broadcast partner will eventually happen, but he is proud that his fledgling promotion has found a real foothold in the combat sports industry without having a dedicated broadcast partner for the past five years.
“It changes everything for us,” he said about the looming TV deal. “It’s not just the monetary part of it, but to get all those different eyeballs on us. They’re watching all these different major league sports, and they can watch what we’re doing now. That’s what’s so major about this thing. I think it’s going to pop, and if it doesn’t, it’s going to eventually come. Because there’s no denying it now. There really isn’t.
“A TV deal will just completely open everything for us, and then it’s really game over, but it’s a matter of getting there. We know there’s going to be a couple more doors to get slammed, but this one [potential broadcast partner] we’re talking to right now in particular, I think is going to open a lot of doors for us. I’m really excited about it. I’m really anxious about it. I think it just does wonders for us.”
Regardless of the TV deal, BKFC remains a destination spot for fans, especially when the promotion puts on marquee events like the one happening on Saturday. And while Feldman insists that BKFC operates completely independently from any other MMA or boxing organization, he gladly touts one metric where his promotion is winning.
“I never compare us to the UFC,” Feldman said. “We’re not the UFC. They’re a juggernaut and we’re not going to be the UFC. But on YouTube, we do more average views than any other combat sport out there. We are the No. 1 combat sport as far as average viewership on YouTube.
“That’s crazy. That’s what I’m saying. We just need to get there and when we get there, it’s over.”
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