Rocky Long, 43, a veteran of more than 60 professional mixed martial arts bouts, is headed to Bare Knuckle FC.
Long, whose record is roughly 21-41-1 in MMA (depending on which site you visit) will be making his bare knuckle debut at BKFC 21 on Friday, September 10.
The Texas native Long, who has since moved to Pennsylvania and trains at Renzo Gracie Pittsburgh, will meet Jason High, a veteran of the UFC, PFL, and WSOF on the upcoming card.
"I wasn't really interested in competing bare knuckle because I have 63 professional MMA fights," Long said. "I was kind of done with fighting but one day Julian Lane showed up to our gym. I was working with the amateur Muay Thai team and someone asked me to work with Julian. I talked to him afterwards and he told me about what he is doing. It sounded like fun. He motivated me to want to do this."
Long then went to one of the tryouts that Bare Knuckle FC held in order to help build the promotion's roster. From there, he would eventually be offered a fight to compete in his first pro bare knuckle bout.
Along the way, Long would help prepare for his upcoming contest by working with UFC fighter Khama Worthy who was also in fight camp at the time. Long was also working with Worthy's coach, David Sachs, and says that he is now more than ready for the challenge ahead of him.
Long's first pro MMA fight took place 20 years ago in 2001 and he's fought a Who's Who list of fighters to include current BKFC champion Johnny Bedford who described him as one of the toughest fighters he has ever competed against. (See below).
"Rocky Long, you can hit that dude with a sledgehammer and he won't go away," Bedford said. "I fought that dude twice. He was my first fight ever in Texas. I think he's got something like 70 fights on his record. I fought that dude twice and he will make you fight to get a win. You look at his record and you think you are going to win. Well, don't take that dude lightly because he comes to fight."
Long will be the first to admit that he doesn't have the most impressive win record, but that doesn't mean he doesn't come to fight.
"I did things the wrong way," he said. "I've won seven titles in my time in MMA. Things were going good, then they go bad, by not sticking to the same game plan, working with the same people. I took fights when I didn't need to. I really believe that this bare knuckle thing is a completely different sport. If you haven't stepped into the ring to compete with no gloves on, your first fight is your debut in bare knuckle. I don't see it as MMA, or a boxing match. You've seen it before. You see it every show. Some guy who is relatively unknown is beating someone they shouldn't beat. Look what happened to Paulie Malignaggi. He was a world class boxer, an awesome boxer, and he lost his BKFC debut. Chop Chop Corley is another one. Some of these guys go in there and then some other tough guy goes in there, bangs it out, and beats them."
Whatever the outcome is next Friday night, Long has no regrets about the life he chose and the path he took to get there.
"I'd like to than Yves Edwards, the ThugJitsu master, for getting me started in competing professionally in combat sports," Long said.