Valor BK 1 goes Saturday, September 21st in New Town, North Dakota. The Ken Shamrock helmed bare-knuckle boxing promotion has its inaugural show going at 4 Bears Casino. The card features notable MMA veterans, champion boxers, and hungry young fighters looking to carve out a name on the BKB circuit. MMASucka was fortunate enough to speak with Ken Shamrock to get some insights on this new endeavor and the introduction of a strong player on the burgeoning bare-knuckle scene.
Valor Bare-Knuckle beginnings
With promotions like BKFC creating intrigue surrounding BKB domestically, many are going to want to get in on this. Many will want to ride the wave of recent popularity to make a quick buck. Ken Shamrock Valor BK isn’t within that group of people. Shamrock said, “I’m learning every single day from our team. I think everybody has done a great job at being able to understand and filter through all the stuff that we’re going through and be able to get the best plan”
Shamrock continued, “Me and my business partner Des Woodruff, we talked about this for four or five years. When I first started fighting it was bare-knuckle and I really loved it. I almost felt like there was this pureness about it. Like there was no excuses. It was just you and them going in there”
Tank Abbott coming out with the gloves disrupted the bare-knuckle era of MMA that Shamrock played a key role in building. Shamrock was never able to shake that feeling though. The idea that bare-knuckle boxing was this pure form of pugilism with two individuals toeing the line and seeing who can break who first.
Market research from Des Woodruff lent a calculated approach to Shamrock’s impassioned stance on BKB. Shamrock is acutely aware of the public perception around bare-knuckle boxing and has a mapped out means of showing people what BKB is all about. He said, “The first thing we’ve got to do is to educate. They don’t know what they don’t know. We have to be able to show them what it is that we’re doing at a very professional level. The more professional it is, the more acceptance comes with it.”
History of Advocacy
Ken was the guy back in the nascent days of MMA defending the sport and raising it’s profile. Going on talk shows to describe the sport and validate that these people weren’t carnies engaging in cockfighting. The spectacle of BKB is something Shamrock is aware of, but he knows that can’t be the long term strategy for promoting this combat sport.
Shamrock said, “I think that spectacle is a good word but we have to rise above that. We want to make sure we embrace that because it’s an opportunity for people to watch. But at the same time, we have to rise above the spectacle. We’ve got to become a bare-knuckle organization. It’s got to be something that’s professional. We have to rise above that and have it accepted as a combat sport.”
There are also big plans from Valor BK to really add to the visual experience for fans. Ken Shamrock has revealed a fair bit about this organization already but it seems like VBK has a lot more up their proverbial sleeve. There are big financial backers and this promotion is in it for the long haul.
VBK 1 Heavyweight Tournament
As much as the promotion seems in it for the long term, first impressions are essential. A one-night, four-man heavyweight tournament is the main feature being promoted for VBK 1. The brackets have not yet been revealed but the four names slated for the tournament have been. Competitors include Rameau Sokoudjou, Mark Godbeer, Jack May, and Mighty Mo.
Shamrock said, “These guys are definitely big hitters. There’s a lot of thought that goes into that too. When you talk about bringing guys into a tournament, especially a one-night tournament, you got to look at the character of fighters. You got to make sure you bring in guys in there that just won’t quit. I think the biggest thing is also making sure you don’t get somebody in there that cuts easily. Does this guy cut every time he fights? You have to have the experience to understand who to put in the tournament.”
This is a significant tournament in the context of Valor Bare-Knuckle’s future. Shamrock said, “Whoever wins this tournament, they will be our heavyweight champion. Up until this point, I think that’s something we want to stick with in all of our weight divisions. Anybody that carries our strap, we want to make sure that we get the best heavyweight bare-knuckle or middleweight bare-knuckle and we want to do that through a tournament. Sometimes some of the sanctioning bodies won’t allow tournaments so it’ll just depend on that.”
As someone who understands all of the variables at play with a one-night tournament, Shamrock has taken every level of precaution. Shamrock knows how to ensure that all elements are considered and that a tournament can go smoothly. This is why reserve bouts are key for one night tournaments. Shamrock stated, “We have an alternate with James McSweeney who in my opinion is a beast in bare-knuckle coming out of England. And then Brian Heden, who will be his opponent.”
Local BKB warriors
Local guys on the card are essential as well. There will an untelevised portion of the card where local fighters will help bolster the live gate further but they also serve an even greater role/purpose. Shamrock said, “You want to make sure the place you’re representing, that when we get done at the end of the night, are happy. We want to make sure that the local people, they can also have some heroes coming out of there too. It’s exciting. We want to make sure they have a great time and it’s a great experience so we can come back.”
Boxing vs MMA in the middle ground
Estevan Payan vs Ishe Smith is a super intriguing fight that takes place outside the heavyweight conversation. Shamrock stated, “That one has the potential of stealing the show even though it’s the heavyweight explosion. That’s a sneaker right there. You’re really going to realize that bare-knuckle is on it’s way up and this card is really going to show that.”
Smith is a former world champion boxer and takes off the big gloves to go toe to toe with a UFC vet in Payan. Ken Shamrock Valor BK is bringing to life the MMA vs Boxing forum wars that have long been held, satiating the long-held curiosity of combat sports fans internationally.
The Road Ahead for Valor Bare-Knuckle
Ken Shamrock Valor BK has created yet another viable platform for free-agent fighters. As much as people talk about the benefits of free agency in MMA, the bare-knuckle circuit also offers chances for fighters to grow. Certain MMA fighters who’ve had slumps actually have revitalized their careers in bare-knuckle boxing. One free agent that Valor BK is intrigued by is Cris Cyborg.
Shamrock said, “We reached out. We wanted an opportunity to be able to present something to her. She never really got an opportunity to hear what we had to offer. It’s unfortunate because sometimes you let the people who are running your business do too much. I don’t think they even got an opportunity to hear what we’re offering.”
Regulatory issues were a prominent issue for BKB even just a few years go. This seems to be changing a bit, though. The reputation surrounding Shamrock and the company as it relates to their bare-knuckle knowledge has lent itself to getting around some concerned regulatory bodies.
Shamrock said, “We’ve got states contacting us wanting us to do their first bare-knuckle because they’re going to open it up. That comes to the professionalism that we bring to the table. As a promotion going into bare-knuckle, you should never put anybody in the ring that hasn’t deserved or earned the right to be in that ring. A lot of these guys are just reaching out and trying to find fighters to fight for them and they’re not qualified.”
Shamrock told MMASucka that Richard Goodman is the mastermind behind this fight card. Everybody on the team is top-notch and Ken seems excited by all members of this Valor BK team. Pay-per-view, digital, PR, etc. Every member of the team is proficient with every facet of creating a profitable, noteworthy fight promotion. FITE TV, Direct TV, and a myriad of platforms will be broadcasting Shamrock’s inaugural BKB promotional effort.
The Coleman confusion
Many outlets have pondered whether or not Ken would step into the ring. Mark Coleman indicated he wanted a BKB bout with Ken on social media. Coleman is a well regarded no holds barred legend like Ken and some fans as well as media outlets ran with the narrative that Coleman-Shamrock was happening in Valor BK. When we spoke, Ken Shamrock clarified his role in Valor BK now and going forward.
Shamrock said, “I’m the president of Valor Bare-Knuckle. My role is basically to do a lot of these, a lot of the talks. Oversee the whole company. As far as being a fighter, there were some things that were said out there. The funny thing is when people start running with it on some of these different talk shows. All of a sudden they start saying how the fight’s going to happen. Not one time did anybody hear me say I was fighting Mark Coleman. It never came out of my mouth.”
Outlets with huge followings were saying some derogatory things about the prospect of Ken fighting. Shamrock took issue because media outlets weren’t doing their research and ran with the idea that Coleman and Shamrock were fighting each other in Valor BK. Ken Shamrock does not see his future in the ring and instead sees a bright future in promoting the Valor Bare-Knuckle brand.
VBK 1 goes Saturday, September 21st in New Town, North Dakota. Fans can go see it live at 4 Bears Casino but BKB enthusiasts can order at home on platforms like FITE and Direct TV. Check out Valor BK on social media to follow along with all future updates and happenings.