Categories: Features

No Gloves, Backyard Fighting Styled League Sets To Launch April 5

Bare-knuckle fighting sounds like it causes more damage than fighting with gloves on. Educating people that their perceptions are wrong is only half the battle for Mike Vazquez and DADA 5000 as they prepare to launch the first event for their bare-knuckle fighting startup after developing it for almost five years.

Vazquez, who helped create the first-ever Hispanic owned racing team, and DADA 5000, who fought against the late Kimbo Slice at Bellator 149, have teamed up to launch a new bare-knuckle fighting league called the Backyard Brawl Extreme Fighting Series. Most of the fights featured at the initial event on April 5 at the Cheyenne Ice & Event Center in Wyoming will consist of traditional bare-knuckle fighting matches, with two other fights controlled by Mixed Martial Arts rules, gloves on.

The concept for the fighting series was born in October 2014, when Vazquez crafted a logo and cage design. It is the design of the cage in which the fights will take place that excites Vazquez more than any other facet of his league.

The cage is designed in the shape of a triangle with three equal sides. It only extends eighteen feet in any direction. Additionally, the fence only reaches seven feet in height. These dimensions are intended to cause confrontation, to avoid providing the fighters with a place to hide and to give fans a view of the entertainment without obstruction.

Originally, Vazquez wanted each fight to consist of a mere single ten minute round. In working with states like Wyoming and Florida (where Vazquez hopes to be licensed soon for a second event), he found that the governing bodies preferred shorter rounds. Thus, Vazquez shifted to five rounds of three minutes a piece.

DADA 5000, born Dhafir Harris, is serving as a spokesperson for the movement and a sort of ambassador for the culture of bare-knuckle fighting.

“The fight that put Kimbo Slice on the map was back in 2006,” says DADA 5000, who is considering a return to fighting in the league he now represents. “Nobody was doing bare-knuckle anything on that level. I came behind him and built a business on it.”

The Back Yard Brawl Extreme Fighting Series does have some competition promoting a similar concept. For instance, the Bare Knuckle Fighting Championships launched in 2018 and features two minute rounds in a large, round cage.

No matter what league is offering it, backers of bare-knuckle fighting have a major obstacle in explaining to the masses that it is not as dangerous as it sounds.

“Bare-knuckle is actually less concussive to the head and brain than boxing gloves,” says Vazquez. “Boxing gloves were invented because bare-knuckle fights were going too long. We need to show the mainstream audience that our product is less damaging.”

If Vazquez has his way, then the next states to allow his style of fighting events will be Florida, Mississippi and New Hampshire. He says that he envisions a “tidal wave of opportunity.”

His first test comes in Cheyenne, Wyoming, where he is selling tickets from an entry price of $25 to $150 for VIP cage side. Anyone around the world can watch if they pay $24.99 for Pay Per View access. Vazquez says that about 20% of the event tickets are pre-sold.

The operation is self-funded to date and a second event is planned for August. A total of $75,000 will be provided to fighters participating in the league’s first event, with a few thousand dollars per fighter provided just to show up. All fighters have already received 50% of their show money up-front. Vazquez says that he does not want people to be nervous about not being paid while they spend money on training and other fight-related expenses.

All-in, there is about $250,000 in hard costs for the league’s first event and it is unlikely that all costs will be recouped by the organizers. But Vazquez and DADA 5000 are in this for the long haul and say that they have the capital to see it through. April 5 will be a big coming out party for these entrepreneurs, who are featuring fighter Josh “Dempsey” Gormley, the great-grandson of legendary world heavyweight boxing champion Jack “The Manassa Mauler” Dempsey in their first major promotion.

Award-winning film producer Billy Corben will be documenting the fights and including footage in his upcooming film Dawg Fight 2.

Darren Heitner @DarrenHeitner

Darren Heitner is the creator of The Sports Biz. He is the owner of the South, Florida-based HEITNER LEGAL, P.L.L.C., which is a law firm that focuses on transactional, intellectual property and litigation work with a heavy emphasis on sports and entertainment issues. He is also the founder of Sports Agent Blog and an author of 2 books published by the American Bar Association -- How to Play the Game: What Every Sports Attorney Needs to Know (1st and 2nd Editions). Heitner contributed to Forbes and Inc. for many years.

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