The first rule of this fight club? Talk about fight club. A lot.
Since 2009, David Feldman had been on a mission to make history: resurrecting the lost sport of bare-knuckle fighting.
Feldman, president of the Bare Knuckle Fighting Championships and a former professional boxer, wanted to establish the first regulated, sanctioned and legal bare-knuckle championship since 1889. Bare-knuckle fighting is considered the ancestor of the gloved boxing that's common today.
Establishing a location for the fight was difficult. Twenty-eight states said no. But Feldman struck gold when he got to No. 29.
The comeback bare-knuckle event is set for June 2 in Cheyenne, to be televised via pay-per-view.
“A lot of people are hesitant at first,” Feldman said. “But there wasn’t a law against bare-knuckle fighting. Before they were allowed to audition, we made sure the fighters are qualified. This is going to be the first legal (bare-knuckle) fight in the history of combat sports.”
Enter Missouri native Sam Shewmaker
Shewmaker, who has fought for 17 years and won three Golden Gloves titles in Kansas City, read about Feldman's vision via social media.
“I came across an ad on Facebook about this and went from there,” Shewmaker said. “You had to apply and send a fight background.”
An amateur MMA fighter, Shewmaker received a phone call from Feldman soon after submitting his application. Days later, he was boarding a flight to Philadelphia to try out for BKFC.
From the moment Shewmaker walked in, Feldman liked what he saw.
“Last July we did tryouts in Philadelphia," Feldman said. "He stood out because I liked his look. I liked the way he talked.
“We had a punch meter. He almost literally shook the wall — he punched way harder than anyone else.”
The 33-year-old Shewmaker has since signed a three-year contract with BKFC. He and the other seven fighters on the June 2 card — Shewmaker will face former Bellator fighter Eric Prindle of Prescott, Arizona — are about to make history.
“This whole thing, it’s an honor. You can never take that away,” Shewmaker said. “Whether you win or lose, your name is in the book as a participant ... it is a privilege. It builds my confidence, and I am very excited.”
Feldman, too, couldn’t be happier with how everything has turned out.
“Before we announced who was in, Sam called me once a week," Feldman said. "He’s happy he’s competing. We’re going to make history. It’s awesome to have Sam and I love his attitude.”