Paige VanZant out for redemption in BKFC 19 as Pedro Diaz beefs up her camp

With the addition of a world-renowned boxing trainer to her camp, Paige VanZant goes for a knockout in her second fight in the Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship.

VanZant is out to prove that her debut loss to Britain Hart was just a fluke when she fights Rachael Ostovich on Friday at the main event of the BKFC 19 at the Florida State Fairground in Tampa.

Vanzant has enlisted the services of Pedro Diaz, who has trained seven world boxing champions, including Miguel Cotto and Guillermo Rigondeaux. She’s splitting time with Diaz and at the American Top Team.

“I had an amazing training camp in Miami, Florida. Pedro Diaz will be in my corner. It’s been a great experience, and I’m really confident going into this one,” VanZant told Empire Sports Media on Wednesday.

VanZant is familiar with her second BKFC opponent. She has previously beaten Ostovich in the UFC two years ago via submission. While she has the mental edge and the BKFC experience, VanZant isn’t leaving anything to chance.

“Of course, I’m going to go for a knockout. But the most important thing is really for me to fight smart. That’s gonna get me the win,” VanZant said.

VanZant is coming to this fight with the momentum of her solid showing in the final two rounds against Hart, where she started to look comfortable with the new combat sport.

“I think it was just getting the experience of knowing what to expect, knowing how the fight is going to feel. There were a lot of changes coming from MMA, especially in terms of the style of fighting,” Vanzant said. “Hopefully, you’ll see a better boxer. That’s the plan.”

BKFC President David Feldman expects an explosive fight between the two women who are out to prove that this sport is for them. 

“People say it’s a rematch but it’s not really a rematch since it’s a different sport,” Feldman told Empire Sports Media. There’s a lot of storylines in this fight. And a lot of curiosity here.”

The VanZant-Ostrovich fight headlines a stacked BKFC 19 card that also includes Hart vs. Jenny Savage grudge match and the heavyweight fight between former BKFC heavyweight champion Arnold Adams (4-1) and the undefeated Michael Terrill (4-0), where the winner could have a shot at reigning champion Joey Beltran.

The BKFC 19 will air on FITE.TV (8:00 p.m. ET/5:00 p.m. PT) in addition to the BKTV APP for existing subscribers.

Advance tickets starting at $65 are now on sale through BKFC.com. The Expo Hall at the Florida State Fairgrounds is located at 4800 US-301, Tampa, FL 33610. Doors will open on the night of the event at 7:00 p.m. ET, with the first bell at 8:00 p.m. ET.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

 

Shaquille O’Neal nears investor deal with BKFC after KnuckleMania success

NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal and the Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship is closing in on a deal that will make him an investor in the company.

The two parties have advanced past preliminary talks following the smashing success of BKFC’s KnuckleMania last weekend in Florida.

O’Neal sat at ringside and presented the BKFC bantamweight belt to Dat Nguyen in the BKFC’s latest pay-per-view event that drew record numbers for the two-year-old company.

“We’re working out the details right now. He’s very interested. [Shaq] loves the product. [He] loves what we’re doing. I think he adds tons to value to us,” BKFC founder and CEO David Feldman told Empire Sports Media in a phone interview. “We’re dealing with his team now and tying all the loose ends, but I think it’s gonna be a done deal. Everybody in the world knows who Shaq is. He’ll be a great addition to our family.”

Record numbers

The KnuckleMania was the first combat sports event in the US to have live fans, thanks to stringent health protocols which BKFC put in place.

In the main event, BKFC’s homegrown star Britain Hart beat former UFC fighter Paige VanZant via unanimous decision.

The new fast-paced and exciting combat sport founded by Feldman in 2018 has made a steady rise, which peaked over last weekend’s fights.

“It looks like we’re trending towards the 100,000-mark of live viewers in the United States. And worldwide—we had international deals this time—the feedback from the networks that we sold to, it looks like about anywhere between 12 and 15 million live viewers,” Feldman said.

And one of those captured by BKFC’s rapid growth is O’Neal, who has been following them for a while now.

Shaq is a huge BKFC fan

O’Neal told USA Today that BKFC is the “future of fighting” and called its fighters “the toughest athletes in the world” for not using gloves. O’Neal also revealed that he came across the new sport through a friend.

“He was watching it on TV a lot, and he started communicating with us, and then in December he came to our event, and he really, really liked it. It piqued his interest even more, and we’re almost there [with the deal],” Feldman said. 

The unassuming BKFC CEO did not believe at first that O’Neal was a huge fan. 

“He reached out and said, ‘I love what you guys are doing…’ Then I message back, ‘Is this really Shaq?’ Then he put a video up and said, ‘Who else would it be?’ And it was pretty cool,” Feldman recalled.

From then on, O’Neal and Feldman were in constant communication. After the NBA Bubble last year, O’Neal finally had a chance to watch a BKFC event live.

Everybody is calling

Aside from the looming partnership with O’Neal, Feldman also shared that a couple of networks have reached out to him after the KnuckleMania.

“We’re definitely in talks right now. We are building our brand, which is the Bare Knuckle TV, and we have our app, but we definitely want to have a platform/partnership [with an established TV network] because it will just add more eyeballs, and that’s coming. It’s certainly coming,” Feldman said.

The BKFC will have their next event dubbed as “Bare Knuckle Kingdom” 1 in Thailand on March 5, and Feldman said, “international expansion is definitely on the horizon.”

“We have a fight in the UK during the first weekend of April. As far as really going global expansion, it’s obviously right now just depends when COVID-19 goes away or subsides,” said Feldman. “The plan is to take this everywhere. Everybody is calling.”

Groups from Africa, Japan, Russia, and Brazil have shown interest in hosting BKFC events. Even fighters from boxing and MMA have sent feelers to join their organization.

“They’re all reaching out. Some top UFC fighters came in during the weigh-in and the press conferences, and I said, ‘You know, you’re gonna like this new sport, and they all said, ‘Nah.’ Then after the fight, they all came over and said to me, ‘This is amazing! I can’t wait to do this,'” Feldman said.

Feldman also can’t wait for what’s coming next for BKFC.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo