Updated: Apr 20
If the sport of bare knuckle fighting could be represented by one human being, "Golden Gloves" Chris Sarro might just be the model the figure is molded after.
Aside from his imposing frame, Sarro also brings a fight IQ that is rarely matched by heavy-handed fighters his size.
The Ellsworth, Maine native had an amateur boxing record of 7-1 before jumping into mixed martial arts competition.
Sarro then transitioned to bare knuckle after making his MMA debut in September 2019, where he knocked out Ras Hylton with one of the most devastating punches you will ever see inside the cage. One big overhand right from “Golden Gloves” Sarro sent Hylton crashing to the canvas and the fight was over.
Video of the highlight knockout went viral, and Sarro's career was launched. As this was all taking place, a friendship was forged between two men who were once combatants in the cage.
"I was a fan of Ras," Sarro recalled of how the fight opportunity presented itself. " I was following his whole career. And so when they offered me him, I said, 'Yes', like right off the bat, because it's not that I wanted to hurt this guy, or I felt that could beat him, I knew I could. But I was a fan of his. And so, after I did that to him, the video went viral. And it's like his kids, he's got, you know, kids in high school and middle school, they see it online. And he's having to see it every day. And he had like, hung it up. He was done. And it broke my heart. His wife reached out to me to say that he was in a rough place."
That is when Sarro decided to take action and extend the olive branch to his once former opponent.
"The last thing I wanted to do was take this man that I was a fan of and by what I did to him, he no longer wants to be a part of the sport that we both love," Sarro said. "So I reached out to him, and was like, 'Why do you come up here and train with us. And we'll go over the holes that we exposed.' And, you know, it's a humbling thing to do but he actually did it. He traveled up three hours from Portland, to my gym. And it was such an honor to have Ras walk into my gym, in my hometown, where everyone of our hardcore fans knew who he was, just by seeing him and it was like, he gained the respect of the whole community by doing that. It was it was a powerful thing. And, and for me, I hold a place in my heart for that guy. He's like a brother. He's been there for this is a hard life, but he got back into it and he's been involved with me. He started training with us and he got a knockout win in his come back fight over a guy named Brad Lee. And then he got a fight for Premier FC.
"And then he made his debut in Bellator, the same night I fought Victor Jones at BKFC 11. There were house parties all over New England and everyone had two TVs to watch. They brought Ras in to lose but he did the same thing that I did to him and now he's coming up on his third fight. And so for someone who was gonna retire, he came back and he was in my corner for BKFC 15, and I was in his corner for Bellator 246 and he comes to the BKFC events and everyone there loves him. The second he got his hand raised for his Bellator debut was the second I was making my walkout for BKFC 11. So it was a very cool night for New England fans especially, but it's a powerful thing. He's now doing his thing with American Top Team so, good things coming."
Despite good things happening for both Hylton and Sarro, the two men continue to look for avenues to propel their careers to the next level.
Sarro decided to relocate to Puerto Rico with fellow bare knuckle fighting competitor Elvin Brito.
"I met Elvin at BKFC 11," he recalled. "We both fought on the same card. And we became friends after that. He invited me to come and train. I was like, 'Well, I was planning on taking a trip, a vacation after this fight.'
Sarro met Brito's family, things clicked, and a friendship similar to the one with Hylton was forged.
"The whole the whole crew is such amazing people that it sparked another brotherhood, a strong friendship that we've had ever since. It was a good bond," Sarro continued.
Fellow Bare Knuckle FC competitor, Brandon Lambert, ended up coming down to Puerto Rico a few months after Sarro did, to train for his fight against Jarod Grant. Lambert would then be followed by BKFC star Britain Hart after her victory over Paige VanZant at KnuckleMania.
"It's like everybody's kind of playing their role in this thing," Sarro said of the fight team that is being put together in Puerto Rico.
"It's manifesting into something beautiful because we're building a beautiful, beautiful facility on the mountainside. "It overlooks the ocean," Sarro said of a facility that he is constructing along with Brito.
"It's gonna be one of the best gyms in the world," Sarro said. "We just had part of the mountainside excavated out. It's a big, big ordeal."
Sarro is currently pushing his body in preparation for Ezatullah Kakar at BKFC 17 on April 30 after his last outing did not go his way. The second round loss to Josh Burns, came in a a highly anticipated fight, solely because of the back and forth banter that took place between the two competitors prior to the contest. The animosity between the two big men carried over into the fight and unfolded in the squared-circle.
"That's a hard one for anyone to read that didn't know the backdrop," Sarro said as he tried to describe what happen.
"We're becoming civil with each other, which is a miracle, but it's happening," Sarro said of his relationship with Burns now. "We dumped it all out there. There's an inevitable thing that takes place when that happens. People mistake the way I come out. It's like people that don't know me would take me as a bully. But if you look at after every fight, no matter what my opponent said, when it's over, I'll get on my knees over hug them and make sure they're all right. It's nothing but love and respect. This is my one moment in life where I get to channel some serious friggin' pain and, and all this hard work and it comes out with me, the way it comes out. It's no show, I just come out. People say I look like a Spartan or something, but that's just me. Intense. Let's f**king go."
"My upcoming opponent is extremely respectful," Sarro said of Kakar. "It's an honor to get the fight someone like that. So there's no clutter, there's nothing like that. I have no problem with confrontation as people can see, but I would rather there not be so we can we can focus purely on competition. And I understand you have to sell the fight but with Josh, I had been nothing but super respectful to him. I was showing respect to him and he went on this podcast and just ran me into the dirt. He went a route that he really didn't have to go to. We don't have to be calling me names."
The insults, according to Sarro, went as far as Burns talking about knocking him out in front of his parents.
"There's little things like that," Sarro said. "For any human being there be natural animosity there."
Mental warfare began to set in, and when it rains, it pours. Add the insults and pressure to compete on top of losing two family members to COVID during the Thanksgiving holiday, and Sarro wasn't in his right mindset. "Golden Gloves" was also hiding a severe injury, a blown meniscus, but said that even with all that he was up against, he doesn't want to make any excuses for the outcome of the fight.
"I didn't say disclose any of that information," Sarro said. "Nothing to feel bad about you know? I got the first round on the scorecards, I brought it to him. This guy was having title contender fight. I didn't have to cut weight, not because I didn't want to, but because nobody wanted to take fight. I was like, 'Of course. I will never turn down a fight.' So I learned that's where I needed better management because I will always say 'Yes.' I needed good management to come in and do the negotiating and make the right decisions for me as a fighter."
As all of this was going on, Sarro would sign with a new management team in GOAT Combat Agency.
"I needed people I can trust," Sarro said. "Vince and Scott from GOAT have been with Elvin for six years so I trust them. But like I said, it was a hard camp. I like the Russian approach to fighting. No emotion. Just show up and see what works. I don't see the need to sell the fight off camera. On camera, yes, but off camera, no. I definitely want that rematch with Josh. I think I have his number. It is going to be interesting to see him and Dillon (Cleckler) on this card. I've got nothing bad to say. All my focus is on Ezatullah."
When it comes to the fight at the end of the month, Sarro wants to give his opponent a "proper introduction to bare knuckle."
"I'm in the best shape of my life," Sarro said. "I'm down from 255 pounds to 225 pounds. This is going to be my fourth bare knuckle fight. I've made that walk three times already. This guy has hands. I know that, but he's never been in bare knuckle and that's where I have the advantage. He's got to make that walk for the first time. That's a lot of pressure on his shoulders. I'm grateful for this. I'm a modern-day gladiator, living my dream."
Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship, (BKFC), The World’s Fastest Growing Sport, takes their first bow in Birmingham, AL with BKFC-17 on Friday, April 30, 2021 at the Boutwell Auditorium and live on the BKTV APP, (9:00 p.m. ET/6:00 p.m. PT) in addition to globally on FITE PPV.
Headlining BKFC-17 is a tremendous heavyweight clash between Dillon ‘Bad Boy’ Cleckler, (2-0, 2 KO’s), of Pensacola, FL and Josh ‘The Hammer’ Burns, (1-0, 1 KO), of Dearborn, MI. Co-featured in the Quarter-Finals of the BKFC 175lb. Tournament, Birmingham fan favorite Marcel ‘Swift’ Stamps, (2-1), faces-off against Mike ‘The Marine’ Richman of Rosemount, MN.
Advance tickets for BKFC-17 priced from $40 to $150 are Now On-Sale at BKFC.com. The Boutwell Auditorium is located at 1930 Reverend Abraham Woods Jr. Boulevard, Birmingham, AL 35203. Doors will open on the night of the event at 6:00 p.m. CT with the first bell at 7:00 p.m. CT.