BKFC president explains Phil Baroni’s removal from upcoming card, expectations for Thiago Alves debut

Thiago Alves makes his BKFC debut this Friday | Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

The Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship returns to action this Friday, Sept. 11, with BKFC 12 from Daytona Beach, Fla. as former UFC title contender Thiago Alves makes his debut for the promotion in the main event.

Originally, Alves was scheduled to face fellow UFC veteran Phil Baroni, but Baroni was removed from the event and replaced by Ultimate Fighter 16 cast member Julian Lane.

According to BKFC President David Feldman, Baroni’s removal from the card wasn’t due to injury but rather a lack of communication with the promotion that eventually forced them to change the main event.

“We lost the main event with Phil Baroni, which was probably a blessing in disguise cause I don’t think that he was training like he was supposed to be training,” Feldman explained when speaking to MMA Fighting. “I’d lost communication with him and then we just had to make a last-minute decision to bring in Julian Lane.

“The great thing about Julian Lane, he’s known for ‘let me bang, bro’ in The Ultimate Fighter but this guy comes to fight. So this is going to be one hell of a main event — Julian Lane vs. Thiago Alves. So we’re excited about the replacement. We actually got a lot of great feedback on it, that’s going to be a tremendous fight.”

Baroni, 44, has one previous bare-knuckle fight on his resume when he lost to Chris Leben in 2018. Feldman detailed the issues the promotion had with the New York native when trying to get ready for BKFC 12 on Friday night and why he ultimately had no other choice but to remove Baroni from the fight against Alves.

“It was honestly not good for the company,” Feldman said. “It’s not even the responses we got, it’s the unresponsiveness that we were getting and we weren’t able to promote and get the fight going. We had have medicals turned in and things weren’t done and then he contacted me and said ‘I want to fight’ and I said we already replaced you, nothing you could do.

“I’m going to talk to him. Maybe we give him another shot, I don’t know. You have to do what’s best for the company.”

With Baroni is no longer on the card, Alves now makes his BKFC debut against Lane, who has four previous bare-knuckle fights on his resume including past fights against UFC veterans Leonard Garcia and Jim Alers.

With experience against many of the top welterweight fighters in the world on his resume, Alves will undoubtedly be favored to win the fight with Lane, but Feldman knows a debut in bare-knuckle boxing is unlike anything else in combat sports.

“Thiago, maybe he did in Brazil, but in America he’s never really tasted a bare knuckle in a legal, sanctioned match. Julian Lane is going to welcome him into that,” Feldman said.

“What I know about Thiago from talking to him and seeing him training, I don’t think he’s going to fold easily getting hit with a bare knuckle but it is a different animal. It’s a different game, a different beast, it’s just a different punch to eat. We’re all looking forward to see what happens.”

Adding a name like Alves to the roster gives Feldman hope that the promotion has just signed another potential star but if there’s one thing he’s learned from his experience through 11 BKFC events is that nothing is guaranteed until the fights happen.

“I expect a fairly long run with Thiago but we’re going to see what happens,” Feldman said. “He has to eat a bare knuckle and then we’re going to see if he’s going to keep coming forward. I anticipate him doing [that] and I anticipate a good run from Thiago with us but we’re just going to have to see what happens.

“Some of the guys we brought in that I thought were going to do tremendously in bare knuckle didn’t do as well and some guys I didn’t think were going to do as well did very well, as we saw with Paulie Malignaggi and Artem Lobov here. It’s just a different animal here. In a boxing match, I probably would have got arrested for making that fight but in bare knuckle, it’s a whole different world.”

In addition to Alves vs. Lane, BKFC 12 will also feature a co-main event where former UFC fighters Hector Lombard and Kendall Grove will square off.

The event will also coincide with a tribute that BKFC has planned for Friday to honor the first responders and victims lost on 9/11 with their show taking place on the 19-year anniversary of the tragedy.

“We have a partnership with the Travis Manion Foundation,” Feldman said. “Travis Manion was a Marine and he was over in the Middle East and he was killed in the line of duty. He was killed actually jumping in front of snipers protecting his team. So his team made it out alive but he died. So what they do is they help families of fallen soldiers, they help current soldiers that are having difficulties in life, it’s a great foundation that we’re teaming with.”

BKFC 12 will be available through the BKTVApp as well as Watch.Bareknuckle.TV.

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