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Bare knuckle promoter released from prison, but still facing lawsuit over unpaid purses

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UFC vets Chris Leben and Johny Hendricks claim they still haven’t been paid for their appearances at 2018’s WBKFF 1.

Tomasz Stankiewicz, 41, was released from a federal prison in Pennsylvania on Wednesday (per MMA Fighting). Stankiewicz was the promoter behind the first and only World Bare Knuckle Fighting Federation (WBKFF) event, which took place in November 2018 in Casper, WY. Many fighters, and vendors, from that event claim they are yet to receive any payment from Stankiewicz.

Stankiewicz’s recent prison stint is not related to his activities in the world of pugilism. Last year he was given a one-year sentence for a mortgage fraud scheme that bilked the government out of $2.4 million. Stankiewicz has been ordered to repay the vast majority of that sum.

WBKFF 1: Rise of the Titans, one of the earliest shows to go ahead after Wyoming relaxed laws regarding professional bare knuckle boxing, boasted a bevvy of recognizable talent.

The main event saw UFC veterans Chris Leben and Phil Baroni duke it out. Leben won that bout, in bizarre fashion. The co-main saw former UFC welterweight champion Johny Hendricks getting TKO’d by Bellator vet Dakota Cochrane.

Other former UFC fighters featured on the card were Josh Neer, Isaac Vallie-Flagg, Julian Lane, Christina Marks and Robbie Peralta.

Leben has filed a civil suit against Stankiewicz asking for $90,000 in damages. Another fighter on the card, Joey Angelo, is considering filing a class-action lawsuit against Stankiewicz.

In addition to being sued Stankiewicz is also facing felony charges in Natrona County, WY for allegedly writing bad checks, including a $15,000 check to Angelo. One of his other alleged bad checks was for $40,000 made out to Hendricks. Stankiewicz is also accused of defrauding the hotel that hosted fighters and event staff.

There is an active arrest warrant out for Stankiewicz in relation to the above charges. In 2019 a prosecutor for the Casper District Attorney’s office told MMA Fighting that Stankiewicz would likely be transported back to Wyoming once he had completed his prison term.

However, there is a chance Stankiewicz will be deported to Poland before he can face any more charges in the U.S.

Throughout all the fallout from WBKFF 1 Stankiewicz has been defended by UFC Hall of Famer Bas Rutten; who had been advertised as WBKFF’s president.

Rutten told MMA Fighting that Stankiewicz would pay back fighters (at least half of their contracted purses) as soon as the promoter was able to get his trucking business back into operation.