Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship president David Feldman acknowledges that a possible date at a New York venue such as iconic fight location Madison Square Garden could be scuppered if fighters need to be vaccinated.
Coronavirus vaccinations have been an increasingly hot topic across sports, with UFC supremo Dana White announcing he would not follow the NFL’s lead in enforcing treatment requirements.
Several controversial episodes have already taken place as a result of athletes showing reluctance to be vaccinated, including the departure of an NFL coach and the transfer of a footballer after a club said making travel plans with him would be difficult without the star taking the jab.
Feldman is not about to try to force any of his roster’s hard-hitting hands. “I’m not in a position to mandate anybody to do things against their will,” the ringleader of the popular, notoriously brutal BKFC events told Middle Easy.
“So I couldn’t possibly mandate my fighters and staff and say, ‘you have to get vaccinated’.”
UFC scrapper Michael Chandler became one of the most high-profile fighters to voice reservations about vaccines so far when he spoke out last week, explaining that he is waiting until the vaccine is fully approved by the US Food and Drug Administration.
Former Bellator MMA champion Chandler, who had been on standby to step in for ex-UFC king Khabib Nurmagomedov’s farewell victory over Justin Gaethje in October, said that the “heavy mandates” in New York could put his mooted bout in the city in November in doubt.
California and New York City have ordered their employees to have vaccines or be tested, and the Department of Veterans Affairs recently said that frontline health care workers must take vaccines or face the risk of termination.
“On that note, if you have to be vaccinated to work in the state of New York, then you know, that’s something I think is going to actually have an adverse effect on the whole entire state of New York,” suggested Feldman.
“I don’t know how long and how well that’s going to work, but it probably wouldn’t work for us.”
Feldman’s best known competitor is arguably Paige VanZant, the former UFC fighter and social media sensation beloved of almost three million fans on her often-saucy Instagram account.
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Pin-up VanZant joined the BKFC last October but has lost both of her first two fights this year, including a showdown with fellow Instagram favorite Rachael Ostovich last month in a clash of two ex-UFC brawlers.
“We’re going to sit down next week,” Feldman said of VanZant, who was clearly shocked to lose on a decision to Ostovich, repeating the result she suffered on her promotion debut in February.
“I’ll be in Florida, we’ll sit down with her and our management team and we’ll figure that out. Whatever it is, whatever happens, if she fights for us again, we have a great working relationship, that’d be great.
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“And if she decides to go a different direction, if it’s not going to work for us financially, then things can happen.
“She’s a team player. I think that we’re going to find a way to make it work and see more of Paige VanZant in the BKFC.”
VanZant suggested after leaving the UFC that she made more money from her self-promotion, which now includes her own subscription site where fans can pay to see her strip off.
The 27-year-old has appeared to be an enthusiastic advocate for the BKFC since signing her deal, and vowed to “always rise” following her defeat to familiar foe Ostovich.
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