Jul 25, 2023 - Sports

Bare-knuckle fighting's return to South Florida "will be bloody"

Dada 5000 is trying to making bare-knuckle fighting go big. Image: Courtesy of BYB Extreme

A bare-knuckle fighting league called BYB Extreme Fighting Series is having its homecoming event, "Brawl in the Pines," in South Florida Aug. 10 after fights in Dubai and London earlier this year.

Why it matters: The league is run by Dada 5000, a local celebrity who has helped Miami's raw fighting scene become known around the world.

  • Bare-knuckle fighting — boxing with no gloves — trails mixed martial arts (MMA), which allows moves like kicking and grappling, in popularity.
  • But over the past few years, leagues like BYB Extreme and the Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship (BKFC) have sought to professionalize the sport and make it more mainstream, helped by a few well-known boxers and MMA fighters who have transitioned into the sport.

Catch up quick: Dada, a fighter and promoter of illegal fights in backyard boxing rings, was the protagonist of the 2015 documentary "Dawg Fight," made by the "Cocaine Cowboys" filmmakers.

  • He tells Axios that people couldn't pronounce his given name, Dhafir Harris, so he got the nickname Dada. "I added the 5000 because I was stronger than the average," he says. "[I'm] light-years ahead of my time."
  • He infamously fought friend-turned-nemesis Kimbo Slice in a hyped but bizarre MMA fight in 2016, during which Dada said his heart stopped and he clinically died.

Context: Dada founded BYB Extreme in 2015 with former NASCAR team owner Mike Vazquez.

  • Fights happen in a small triangular ring called a Trigon, which forces action.

What they're saying: CEO Gregory Bloom tells Axios that bare-knuckle fighting looks violent, but is the least dangerous combat sport because fighters have difficulty throwing punches at full speed.

  • "It leads to more calculated fighters, a lot more excitement and a high knockout rate, which is always very exciting for the crowd," Bloom says. "It will be bloody."

If you go: The Aug. 10 fight has nine matchups at the Charles F. Dodge Center in Pembroke Pines, including Miami native Jose Fernandez facing interim champ Sam Liera.

What we're watching: Now 45 years old, Dada retreated from the ring but tells Axios he's been training and will fight again.

  • A sequel to "Dawg Fight" is due out late this year or next year.
  • Bloom says he expects bare-knuckle fighting to eventually eclipse MMA — which brought a sellout crowd to the Kaseya Center in April — in popularity.

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