Luis Palomino
Photos by Phil Lambert

Luis Palomino is undeniably the most successful fighter in BKFC history yet he’s still waiting on an opportunity to headline a major card against a high-profile opponent signed in free agency.

As a two-division champion with a perfect 8-0 record in bare-knuckle competition, the 42-year-old veteran has arguably become the face of the promotion but there’s been a growing frustration simmering just under the surface when it comes to his schedule. While he’s always been happy to take on the next best challenge presented to him — like his upcoming fight against James Lilley at BKFC 45 — Palomino has continuously called out opponents like ex-UFC champion Eddie Alvarez, Chad Mendes and even Mike Perry yet his wishes somehow keep falling on deaf ears.

“These guys do not want to see me,” Palomino vented when speaking to MMA Fighting. “That’s the honest truth. I think I found my niche here. I found what I didn’t find in my MMA days. What I didn’t find in the cage, I found it here and I think they see it as well. I’m not an easy check to collect. I think they are ducking me. That is the truth.

“It’s hilarious. Nobody calls out my name. Not only does nobody mention my name but they won’t accept the call outs when I mention their name. It’s funny.”

For the better part of a year, Palomino was consistently calling out Mendes after he made a successful bare-knuckle debut in 2022, but he never got the response that he wanted.

To his credit, Mendes consistently stated that he wasn’t even sure he would ever compete in BKFC again after his initial introduction, although he eventually returned for a showdown with Alvarez in April that became one of the most talked about events of the year.

As soon as that fight was booked, Palomino started to figure out that Mendes wasn’t interested in the challenge or the risk in facing him versus the payday and attention he would receive from a fight with Alvarez, who was competing in bare-knuckle for the first time. Afterwards, Mendes announced his retirement.

“We had Chad Mendes come in, he did his debut and I openly gave him a title shot and the dude was crickets for a whole entire year,” Palomino said. “Every fight that I won, I called out his name publicly and it was crickets. Quiet.

“Then he comes out of a year of ignoring the call outs and he wants a fight with Eddie Alvarez. It leaves me in a position where you want to come collect these big checks in the organization, but you’re not willing to face the best. You guys were chasing gold in the UFC.”

Palomino says he’s starting to get the same impression about Alvarez after he defeated Mendes and later stated that he would like to compete in bare-knuckle fighting again but the reigning BKFC welterweight and lightweight champion isn’t sold he’ll be the opponent.

“I’m already starting to do the talks [with Eddie Alvarez], we had a little exchange of words on social media, respectfully, but he gave me some bulls*** like ‘you and I will never fight for money.’ What do you mean?” Palomino said. “You’ve got gold in the UFC. You got gold in Bellator. You went looking for gold in ONE FC and you come to bare-knuckle and you’re not interested in gold here? In being the champion? Or is it you just don’t believe you can beat me?”

According to Palomino, he nearly landed a bigger named opponent for his upcoming fight when he was originally expected to face former boxing champion Austin Trout, who defeated UFC legend Diego Sanchez in his BKFC debut in February.

The deal ultimately fell through and Palomino was shifted to the fight against Lilley instead.

Palomino insists he’s not looking past Lilley or trying to downplay the dangers an opponent like that represents but he’s also starting to see the risk versus reward in these kinds of matchups versus a chance to face a more established veteran.

He’s also getting a little tired of hearing relative newcomers to BKFC being touted as the face of the promotion yet he’s been the most consistent fighter on the roster since his first appearance in 2020.

“It’s extremely frustrating,” Palomino said. “You’ve got Mike Perry in the house, too, in the bare-knuckle house and he’s got three fights and they’re talking about Mike Perry is the king of bare-knuckle. All respect to Perry, we see each other, we have no problems but it’s another name I’ve been throwing at the company because it’s a super fight.

“I’m looking for the biggest fight possible for myself, for the biggest check I can get. These guys are coming over here to get paid and they’re getting paid relatively more than the champion? No problem but you’ve got to come through me. If you want to call Mike Perry the king of BKFC, cool, no problem, let’s fight for it.”

Palomino isn’t certain what he can do the change course when it comes to future opponents but he really hopes somebody will eventually accept his challenge so he can finally get a moment under the spotlight just like so many MMA and boxing veterans have received without any prior bare-knuckle experience.

“I’m over here beating everybody in my way but I’m not getting any of the big names I’m asking for,” Palomino said. “I don’t know. I understand the whole marketing aspect for the organization and signing the UFC fighters, I think it’s a great idea. I think it’s great for us but I think it would be even better now that we’ve established some BKFC stars, have these people come and earn their money.

“You want to come to the organization, come and face me now. I’m in the position because I’m holding two titles, they use that excuse, they hide behind that ‘I can’t go for the titles yet, I’m going to go collect a check over here.’ I’m in this weird position. I have no problem letting go of a title or two as long as I get the names.”

Author: Staff

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