Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship

Mississippi Mean – Jason “The Kid” Knight discusses Bare Knuckle return, UFC tenure & Empire Fighting Championship

Mississippi’s own Jason “The Kid” Knight has come a long way since humble upbringings. He’s currently sitting on an exceptional professional mixed martial arts record of 20-6, he made 9 Octagon appearances, and he’s coming off of what some are calling the greatest combat sports event of all-time in a bare-knuckled brawl against Artem Lobov at BKFC5. After spending nearly 4 years with the UFC, Knight is bringing his experience and expertise back to the Gulf Coast where he is now and forever an integral piece of the combat sports scene.

Knight is helping to pave the way for future combat sports stars in the region. He owns and operates Jason Knight MMA in Lucedale, Mississippi, training up-and-coming mixed martial artists, as well as offering a bully proof program for kids that “teach[es] them confidence, respect, and integrity while at the same time… how to defend themselves.” Knight and his childhood friends started Empire Fighting Championship this year, and it has quickly become one of the premier combat sports promotions along the Gulf Coast, garnering an attendance of over 1,400 spectators at their very first event. Empire Fighting Championship 2 is this Saturday, June 8th, at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum, and being broadcast live on PPV by FITE TV.

“I was in the UFC for 3 years, and I took 9 fights. I see that as the reason why I’m not in the UFC now. I took too many fights too quick.”

Against all odds

Knight overcame astonishing odds getting to where he is today, triumphing over a troubled childhood that had him once on a one way path to prison, to amassing an immensely successful career as a mixed martial artist that culminated in him reaching number 15 in the Featherweight world rankings fighting with the UFC. Knight described his childhood, and how it led him to mixed martial arts:

“Me, growing up, I was on my way to prison, quick, fast and in a hurry. I was 13, going on 14, and I got into a fight at school, probably fight number 100 when I was a kid. If you looked at me the wrong way, we were fighting. It didn’t matter what it was for. If you gave me half a reason to fight, we were throwing. I got simple assaults charges [because of that fight].

Then, someone introduced me to MMA, and it was like, man, I can beat people up without getting into trouble, it helped me out a whole lot. [The man who would later become] my brother-in-law, he wanted to teach me how to throw punches, and he held pads for me, and slowly but surely we started training MMA in the backyard.”

“I woke up the next morning, and I saw Ariel Helwani tweeted that I’m fighting Artem Lobov, and I called my manager and asked if I’m fighting Artem, and he said, ‘yea.'”

“The Kid”

Knight’s brother-in-law helped him to find his first fight at a bar in Alabama. Knight described the cage as a “16 X 16 foot dog kennel” where he fought a returning Iraq War veteran. An underdog in the fight, Knight would win VIA rear naked choke in the first 30 seconds. It was this early upbringing fighting inside a cage that got Knight his nickname “The Kid.”

“My second fight, the guy I was fighting was like 5 or 6 and 0 as an amateur, and he had a title, and they put me in there like a sacrificial lamb. Right before the fight, they wanted an interview, and a lady came up to me and asked me about my nickname. I was like ‘what do you mean, you don’t get yourself a nickname,’ and she was like ‘alright, we’re just going to call you The Kid,’ and I’ve been ‘The Kid’ ever since.”

Nov 27, 2016; Melbourne, Australia; Dan Hooker (red gloves) competes against Jason Knight (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Rod Laver Arena. Mandatory Credit: Matt Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

Showing the UFC what ‘Mississippi Mean’ means

Knight would go undefeated as an amateur, eventually moving to D’Iberville with his brother to begin training with UFC veteran Alan Belcher. Knight then fought his way to a professional record of 15-1 before being called up to the UFC in 2015. Knight won 4 out of his first 5 UFC fights, with impressive victories over Dan Hooker, Alex Caceres and Chas Skelly. However, the breakneck pace that Knight had been fighting with for 10 years eventually caught up with him, and he fell short in his last 4 UFC appearances, leading to his release from the organization. At 26 years of age, Knight had already taken part in over 30 MMA fights, and the effects were being felt on both his body and his career.

“What’s crazy is I took 6 months off at a time, a year off, 9 months off, several times. But, when I was active, it was time to fight. I tried to get 4, 5, 6 a year, as many as I could take. I was in the UFC for 3 years, and I took 9 fights. I see that as the reason why I’m not in the UFC now. I took too many fights too quick.”

Taking off the gloves

“I feel like I’ve got the opportunity to make more money there [in BKFC] than fighting my way back to the bottom tier of the UFC.”

Shortly after announcing his release from the UFC, Knight had offers from several national and international organizations, but he was particularly intrigued by an offer from newcomers onto the combat sports scene, Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship. While Knight’s management and Bare Knuckle brass were in negotiations, Knight noticed that the organization was planning an event in Biloxi, Mississippi. That night, he asked his Twitter followers to retweet if they’d like to see him fight in his hometown. The next morning, Knight awoke to big news.

“I woke up the next morning, and I saw Ariel Helwani tweeted that I’m fighting Artem Lobov, and I called my manager and asked if I’m fighting Artem, and he said, ‘yea.'”

Jason Knight fought Artem Lobov at Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship 5 in Biloxi, Mississippi, on April 6th, 2019, in what some are calling the greatest fight in combat sports history. Although he didn’t get the decision, Knight did cement himself as one of the biggest draws and brightest stars in bare-knuckled boxing. He praised the up-and-coming BKFC for their professionalism and for how well they have treated him, stating that in his first fight with the organization he had already earned more than in his last fight with the UFC. Knight commented about Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship:

“I feel like they are the next big thing. A lot of people are wanting to join BKFC, and [right now] me and Artem are the superstars.”

Knight stated his desire to have a few more fights with Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship, and that a rematch with Artem Lobov isn’t out of the question. Although nothing is set in stone, Knight did hint that he hopes to fight in Bare Knuckle’s return to Biloxi in August.

“I feel like I’ve got the opportunity to make more money there [in BKFC] than fighting my way back to the bottom tier of the UFC.”

Empire Fighting Championship

“I fought in Madison Square Garden, I fought in Australia. I’ve lived so many dreams.”

Along with operating Jason Knight MMA and working on a potential return to bare-knuckle boxing, Knight is also one of the partners in Empire Fighting Championship, a combat sports promotion that has quickly emerged as one of the top organizations on the Gulf Coast. Their events feature not only MMA matches, but also combat jiu jitsu, with plans to incorporate other disciplines of martial arts in future events. Knight is not only the face of the organization, but he also helps with matchmaking. And, having his face on the fight card for EFC 2 certainly helped the up-and-comers to land their PPV deal with FITE TV.

“We thought maybe one day we could get on Fight Pass, or something like that. Never in a million years did we think the PPV deal that we just landed for Empire would happen for our second show. We’re blowing the other promotions out of the water. They are scrambling to find fighters, trying to sell their shows, all because we’ve put on 1 show so far.”

I asked Knight about what he felt attributed to the early success of Empire Fighting Championship.

“We are treating our fighters better than everybody else. I’m a fighter, I know what these guys want. I’m not going to call someone a million times and try to pressure them into a fight. I’m not going to say I’m doing something and not do it. Anything we say we’re going to do, we do. We help these amateurs, help them with travel, getting their hotel. For the first show, I raffled off tickets to my bare-knuckle fight. I split that money down the middle for the 2 fighters that won Fight of the Night. When someone is treating you better, you’re going to want to fight for them, and word is getting around quick that we are doing better than the other guys.”

“We are treating our fighters better than everybody else. I’m a fighter, I know what these guys want. “

Knight is stepping back into the cage this Saturday at Empire Fighting Championship 2 for a combat jiu jitsu match against fellow brown belt Joshua Davila. Combat jiu jitsu follows nearly all of the normalized rules of the sport, except that palm strikes are allowed when on the ground. Although Knight has reached the pinnacle of combat sports, he’s not underestimating his opponent this weekend.

“He’s tough! I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone in my life with more heart. I know, win, lose or draw, I’ve got to compete with this guy. It’s not going to be anything easy for me whatsoever. I’m not underestimating him at all. It’s going to be a fun match. I’m going to slap fire from him as much as I can. I’m going to have so much fun Saturday. I might throw up a submission or two, but really I want to slap him.”

Greener pastures

After this weekend’s event, Knight hopes to continue to help Empire FC to grow, and to fight a few more times with Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship. He’s entertaining the idea of competing more often in combat jiu jitsu, and working toward his black belt. Knight, knowing that a career in combat sports can’t last forever, is hoping to use his earnings with BKFC to buy some land and build a log cabin that he can someday retire in. I asked Knight, when he’s sitting on the front porch of his log cabin reflecting on his career, what will be some of the better moments.

“I made it to number 15 in the world, and I fought Ricardo Lamas, who was number 3. I’d say that was probably my biggest accomplishment. [Also] fighting in Madison Square Garden, the fact that I got to fight there, it could had gone better, I could had gotten the win, but shit happens. I fought in Madison Square Garden, I fought in Australia. I’ve lived so many dreams.”

You can catch Jason “The Kid” Knight inside a cage for the first time since UFC 230 this Saturday, June 8th, at Empire Fighting Championship 2, from the Mississippi Coast Coliseum, and live on PPV on FITE TV. You can get more information and purchase tickets by clicking here.

To close our conversation, I asked Jason if he had any advice for aspiring fighters.

“My biggest advice to any fighter out there, I don’t care if you’re young, old, if you’ve been in this crap for 20 years, is do not forget why you started this shit. You started training for fun. You started doing it because it was something you thought you’d love to do. Don’t let anybody in this world take the fun out of it. Don’t let the idea of winning or losing take the fun out of it. Don’t lose sight of that, because when it gets to being about money, or about winning or losing, then you’re not having fun anymore. As soon as you turn it sour, it’s going to stay sour.”

Jason Knight would like to thank the following for their continued undying loyalty and support: My Nerdy Neighbor Inc., Alan Belcher MMA Club, Empire FC, Performance Auto Upholstery & Glass, Alabama Vacation Home Rentals, Blue Oasis Pressure Washing, Analytical Business Services LLC, Tanked Up Spear Fishing, Uncle J Custom Boats, and Comfort on the Coast.

If you enjoyed this article, please like and share! Also, go ahead and like our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram @mmatribune. You can show Jason and Empire FC your support by liking Jason Knight MMA and Empire Fighting Championship on Facebook.

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