Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship’s Knuckle Mania 3 is going down on February 17th in Albuquerque, New Mexico. In a somewhat surprising turn, the promotion just announced that the official co-main event of the evening will include longtime UFC veteran, Diego Sanchez, in a bare knuckle boxing bout against former WBA light middleweight champion, Austin Trout.
This past December, BKFC received approval from the New Mexico Athletic Commission to host their event at Tingley Coliseum. What did not get approved at the time, however, was the matchup between the now 41-year-old Sanchez and the 37-year-old Trout. That was voted against by NMAC members based off of the state of Sanchez’s fitness level after a high-milage MMA career.
As recorded by the Albuquerque Journal, NMAC Commissioner, Jerome O’Connell, originally told the former lightweight title challenger at the time, “With all due respect to Mr. Sanchez … I just need to say on this fight, I cannot support it.”
Sanchez’s agent, Ricky Kottenstette, responded to that statement by telling the commission that his client would provide results of MRIs and other neurological tests to the commission, and followed up that he was “confident that (the tests) will show no issues.”
Fast forward to January 10th, and it seems Sanchez has been cleared to move forward as a bare knuckle boxer. Bloody Elbow has reached out to the New Mexico Athletic Commission on the reason behind their change of heart, but have yet to hear back at the time of publishing.
After realizing a King of the Cage title in 2004, Sanchez made his way to The Ultimate Fighter Season 1, and ended up winning the show by stopping Kenny Florian with strikes at the TUF 1 finale. From there, Diego went on to fight his way to a title shot against BJ Penn in 2009, but was stopped in the fifth round after a head kick opened up a nasty gash on his forehead.
Sanchez never won three fights in a row after that, but he was consistently booked in the UFC for another 11-years. He ended up walking away from the UFC in 2020 with a promotional record of 19-13, and then dropped a unanimous decision to Kevin Lee at Eagle FC 46 in 2022. His overall MMA record currently stands at 30-14.
What about Austin Trout? The former WBA light middleweight champion, has a boxing record of 36-5-1, and is currently on a five-fight winning streak. His last victory was a unanimous nod over Jose Sanchez Charles just back in December of 2022. His most notable win came way back in 2012, when he defended his belt against Miguel Cotto. Trout dropped his title to Canelo Alvarez the very next year.
Alongside Trout vs. Sanchez, Knuckle Mania 3 the fight card is set to be headlined by a light heavyweight (185 lbs) championship fight between title holder Lorenzo Hunt and challenger Mike Richman. A former regional MMA talent, Hunt has competed exclusively in bare knuckle boxing—to the tune of a 9-1 record—following a 2018 loss to current UFC middleweight Joe Pyfer. A longtime Bellator fighter, Richman turned to boxing in 2018 after a pair of 2017 losses in LFA. He’s currently 5-0 (1 NC) as a bare knuckle boxer.