Following the debut of Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship in early June, the market in bare knuckle fighting gained the interest of combat sport fans everywhere. World Bare Knuckle Fighting Federation came on the scene and they came prepared. Tomasz Stankiewicz, the current WBKFF president, immediately hired a staff built for success. Paul Tyler was the matchmaker for BKFC 1 and the matchups led to great fights. Following the staff, WBKFF shook up the combat sports world with signings of former UFC fighters such as Chris Leben, Phil Baroni, Josh Neer, and Johny Hendricks. The organization also announced on ESPN that three time Pro-Bowl linebacker, Shawne Merriman, would headline the card.
Immediately, I was skeptical. Not of the fighters or the expansion of bare knuckle fighting, but because of the stacked card as a debut, it just did not seem sustainable. Fast forward to October 26th and suddenly; the card is in imminent jeopardy. Shawne Merriman announces to Jim Rome that he is not sure whether the fight is happening or not due to the promotion wanting to restructure his contract on short notice. Merriman stated:
“I don’t know. The ball’s in their court. I literally got a call about two days ago and they are trying to restructure and renegotiate and I don’t understand, how do you do that off of a guarantee? There’s a reason why you sign fighters to a guarantee and you move forward. I’m all about the honesty and the integrity and just doing what I’m saying I’m going to do. This is something, I’ve been in a seven week training camp now…. I’ve been there almost eight weeks now and two weeks before the fight you want to say ‘Hey look, we might have a problem.’? Well, what’s the problem? People want to see me fight. People have already bought the pay-per-view.”
I saw this news break and immediately I pick up the phone to call the mastermind matchmaker behind this card, Paul Tyler only to learn that Paul has been released from the organization after being told his services are no longer needed. Mr. Tyler stated:
“I moved across the country to make this happen and eventually learned this promotion was corrupt. There were books of credit cards with fake business names to pay for fighter flights and hotels. As of yesterday (1 November) only two of the fighters’ flights have been paid for. After realizing they did not have the money to pay the fighters, Tomasz mentioned we change their pay structure after they arrive to fight, which is completely illegal.”
Recently, news broke that the main event between Brennan Ward and Johny Hendricks was pulled off of the card after Ward said WBKFF did not honor his original contractual terms. It is unknown whether Hendricks will fight a replacement opponent at this time.
Unfortunately, many of the initial fears are coming true. Overbooking the card with seemingly unattainable star power in the inaugural PPV for the promotion has proven to be disastrous. At this point, WBKFF seems to be in the market of smoke and mirrors. Their first event is Friday, November 9.