news 5 days ago

David Feldman discusses growth of Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship, company's future

Sporting News — (Steven Muehlhausen)

Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship presents its first event of 2020 with BKFC 10 ​from the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention Center in Fort Lauderdale, FL. The main event features former Bellator middleweight champion Hector Lombard taking on David Mundell.

Before the show takes place, BKFC president David Feldman sat down with Sporting News to look back at 2019, the growth of the organization and what type of competitors he's looking to bring in.

(Editors note: This interview was edited for length and clarity.)

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Sporting News: How would you characterize 2019 for the company?

David Feldman: It was a building year. It was a year that kind of turned the corner for us. It was a turning year for us. And I think it put us into a semi-mainstream world of combat sports right now. I think by the end of 2020, mid-2021, is where we become a legitimate player in combat sports.

SN: What event do you think was the turning point for the company in 2019? Because to me, it was the Paulie Malignaggi vs. Artem Lobov fight that people really started to know about BKFC.

DF: I think it was actually the Artem Lobov vs. Jason Knight fight. It got everybody talking because it was an unbelievable war, and that fight got out, the pictures went viral. And I think that it opened it up people’s eyes where people were like, ‘Wow, this is something.'

Then yes, Malignaggi vs. Lobov really turned a corner for us as far as getting us into the boxing world and the mixed martial arts world and put us in that mainstream category where some people were saying that it was the biggest fight of the summer for 2019.

SN: Did the success of not just that event but the entire year surprise you?

DF: I mean, in all honesty, this is what we envisioned. We just didn't envision it this fast. We think we're about two years ahead of the plan right now. We're growing exponentially, only way faster than we ever thought we were going to be. The popularity is through the roof. We never thought it was going to get here this fast, but it did. I think everybody in the company was hoping it was going to get there but never really thought it would be this fast.

SN: How do you temper everybody's expectations when you get big success because everyone wants to go bigger and bigger?

DF: It is the growth of the sport. We know what the fans want. And we've always given the fans what they want. And that's not a one-sided fight, not lopsided at all, but very competitive fights. We've always given to the fans and we will continue to do that. And by bringing in some of these bigger names and we're going to have more and bigger names by the end of the year. We're going to do a real big MMA and boxing super-fight again in 2020. And you know, it is hard. I'm not going lie to you. It's hard because every time the bar gets set a little higher.

SN: What was the biggest challenge in 2019 that you were able to learn from and not make the same mistake, say in 2020?

DN: I think really going into this whole thing, we thought pay-per-view was, you know, ‘Everybody's going watch it on pay-per-view.' Then, we got hit in the face like, ‘Wow, people illegally streamed the hell out of pay-per-view, and we had nothing.' We had no idea about that. So, I think just combating that and finding different platforms. We have two very big either platform or network deals in talks right now and hoping to close that out within the next 30 to 60 days. I think that's really the thing that took us by surprise was how much the pay-per-view was pirated and how to combat that.

SN: I remember when we talked last year, you were only in Wyoming and Mississippi. Now, you're doing events in Florida too. What does it mean to you that you're starting to expand into different states?

DF: It is phenomenal for us because every time we get to grow this new territory. We get the local fans and local community involved. Right now, we're doing Florida again. And then next month, we do Wichita, Kansas. The following month we do Birmingham, Alabama, then the following month we're coming back here (Ft. Lauderdale) for a big event on May 16. And then June, we're actually going to London, England and in July, we're going to be at the Seneca Allegany Resort & Casino in New York.

So, that's just one step into getting New York. Thus, we're really expanding this thing at a very nice pace for us. What's so important about it is those local fans can now say that they've become fans and hopefully buy the PPV and watch whatever platform we're on in the future.

SN: What are the target states you're looking to get regulated in this year?

DF: I mean, everybody wants Nevada. But I see that a little bit down the road for us because we have to prove ourselves a little more. We are the new kid on the block. We have to show them that we really mean business and that we are sustainable. We're doing everything right. We'd love to be in Nevada and New York.

New York is a big one for us. So, I think we're going to get one of two of them a lot faster than the other one.

SN: What are the type of fighters who you're looking to bring in? You brought in Paulie Malignaggi and Ishe Smith from the boxing world and different notable UFC and Bellator guys from the MMA world? Are you looking to expand into kickboxing and possibly jiu jitsu?

DF: I think kickboxing could be one, but not jiu jitsu. We're signing these guys that are bigger names, and they're pulling a lot of notoriety, a lot of media, a lot of press, and a lot of fanfare to the show. And on that same shows where we're building our undercard, we're building our future stars.

So, you know, it's a two-way thing that we're doing to develop this company right now. And it's working. So we'll go from anywhere, but they have to be able to want to fight.