Having another human disconnect you from consciousness can be a rather humbling experience.
Every day, individuals around the globe get into fights on the street or outside of bars. It comes naturally for conflict to arise between any species – what one does with it in the wake is what separates the pros from the wannabe tough guys.
Birmingham, England’s Connor Tierney was on top of the world with unshakeable confidence. All it took was a single blow to shatter his entire outlook.
“I got knocked out in my second bare-knuckle fight in about 30 odd seconds,” Tierney told My MMA News. “It was to the point where I don’t remember even getting knocked out. I was proper gone. Left hook – bang clean, on the floor.
“That really opened my eyes that did. I’ve never been knocked out in my life like that. That was something silly. I was gone, all stumbling all over the place. I didn’t come round until they were actually announcing the winner of the fight.”
Outside the ring, Tierney has worked as a surveyor for three years and counting. He admits that fighting full-time isn’t exactly affordable at the moment, but that’s just one of the many motivations to push onward.
Despite not getting his hand raised on that cloudy night, Tierney still took away invaluable lessons which have left him a winner in the long run.
“I remember looking at my coach and I went ‘What’s happened? Did I just get knocked out? Oh shit,’” Tierney laughed. “The whole crowd’s just looking at me. It was horrible. I suffered bad after that because I was this young kid who didn’t think he was ever gonna lose, had just been absolutely sparked out cold. I think that gave me the biggest wake-up call in my fighting career. I think the reason I’m so good now, the reason I’m winning so many fights, and I’m stronger and I’m better is because I took that negative and turned it into a positive and I’ve vowed that it’ll never happen again. I think that’s made me the best-conditioned fighter that I could ever be. I’ve never been in the condition that I have for these past fights. I’ve just looked back and thought ‘That ain’t happening again.'”
Bare-knuckle boxing is nothing new when it comes to combat sports, however, the professional and sanctioned variants have only just begun gaining traction in recent years.
Very rarely have legitimate boxers made the transition from “the sweet science” to its more violent gloveless sibling. Thus making the 26-year old Tierney, a former amateur boxer with 40-plus fights under his belt, somewhat of an anomaly.
“I remember finishing my boxing in the amateurs and thinking ‘I don’t want to do this,’” Tierney recalled. “Then prizefighting in bare-knuckle came up. My friend had already fought in it and was like ‘I fancy that, have it a go.’ Everyone’s all, ‘That’s brutal! What’re you gonna do that for? You’re gonna ruin your looks!’ I’m just gonna have a go, you know what I mean?
“I think I just took to it and it’s hard for people to understand that. I know gloved boxers that can’t take to bare-knuckle, they’ve tried it and they just are not very good at it. So it’s a completely different sport. Obviously, the distance, the timing, the ruleset is completely different.”
Looking at bare-knuckle from any perspective, it’s not difficult to see why longevity isn’t the most sustainable attribute for the competitors. No, it’s not the violent aesthetic – more so the damage that follows.
Tierney understands the difference between boxing and BKB as the two are polar opposite in terms of trajectory. Starting out at a rapid pace now 6-1, “The Brumtown Bomber” is a 165-pound titleholder soaking in the limelight whereas boxers starting out take significantly slower builds before even sniffing championship status.
This can all circle back to damage dealt and received, in theory, as well as professional BKB’s youth. Though, having been on the receiving end of a gloveless knockout of his own, Tierney has scored in his favor, too.
“It’s mental. When you throw – it’s the connection of it,” Tierney detailed. “The feel, the sound of it, it’s like… that’s big. I’ve had some good knockouts now and good knockdowns, when you catch ’em and they go, it’s like a glimpse. You feel the connection up your arm, you feel the smack from the skin and the bone. Then you just see the body disappear in front of your eyes. It just goes down so quick you’re like, ‘Oh yeah, I just knocked ’em down.’ Madness.”
As a father of three, Tierney’s focus in the sport falls majorly on himself as he is a knowingly selfish fan of his own handiwork – little study goes elsewhere.
Names like Joe Calzaghe and Tyson Fury have managed to capture Tierney’s attention as a fan over the years. Even in MMA, Conor McGregor’s initial UFC run at featherweight stood out to the BKB champ.
As the experience in the striking department is continually gained, while recognizing the surge of popularity in MMA only bolstering, Tierney could very well make another crossover before he calls it a career.
“I am considering it,” he said of MMA. “I’ve done boxing, I’ve done bare-knuckle, and a lot of people have filtered out of MMA into bare-knuckle. I’m doing the opposite. I’ve started from a professional level in bare-knuckle and now I could see myself trying to get out there and get a little bit known and I don’t know, face a decent fighter in Bellator or the UFC if that opportunity ever arose.
“I’d be straight down in Renegade in Birmingham training jiu-jitsu and standup, obviously, boxing and thai. Which I’m really interested, to be fair. I do watch and I’m starting to think more and more like, ‘You know what? I fancy doing this at some point.’ So you never know down the line.”
Before Tierney ever finds himself in a cage, he’s committed to expanding his brand starting with making his presence felt in the U.S. with a run in Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship.
Never one to shy away from some sparring in the form of verbal “truth-telling” as he describes, the Birmingham resident has his future mapped out to an extent. Early December dates targeted for the 3rd and 10th in New Mexico and Miami, Florida leave Tierney plotting his BKFC saga’s beginning.
“I know that Diego Sanchez is headlining one of these cards so a build-up to fight Diego Sanchez if he comes through and I come through, me and Diego could fight maybe start of next year,” he explained. “Which is what I need because I know that Diego is past it now and he’ll get beat.
“I like Diego, he’s a tough warrior, I respect him and stuff, but I’m just young and hungry and I’m coming up now. I’m trying to earn a legacy and the glory that he’s had. And that’s why he’s past it now and that’s why it would be perfect for me. A big win as well, that’s a big name to beat.”
Drake is an MMA writer based out of Brush Prairie, Washington, USA who specializes in feature pieces, the women’s fight scene, lists, news coverage, and rankings. He has been a passionate fan of MMA ever since 2009. Drake has most notably written for BJPenn.com, FanSided, The Body Lock, South China Morning Post, MyMMANews, WhatCulture, Cageside Press, Sherdog, The Scrap, and MMA Today. He has also written for and created video content for RT Sport. As for other sports, Drake is a longtime fan of the NFL’s Green Bay Packers and Jacksonville Jaguars.
You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram: @DrakeRiggs_ . Also check out all of his video content on YouTube at YouTube.com/DrakeRiggs where he uploads fighter interviews, podshows, and various other types of content.