Bare Knuckle FC heavyweight champion Joey Beltran will look to successfully defend his title for the very first time when he meets Marcel Stamps in the main event of BKFC 13 from Tony's Pizza Events Center in Salina, Kansas on Oct. 10.
“Mexicutioner” Beltran enters the squared-circle for the sixth time, his first since claiming the gold with a unanimous decision win over Chase Sherman at BKFC 9.
Stamps, who only has one bare knuckle fight with the promotion, will likely be the smaller man come fight night, but Beltran is not overlooking his opponent’s skillset.
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“I know that he is a high-level athlete,” Beltran said of Stamps. “I definitely think that he will be big and strong enough to compete. I don’t think the size is really going to matter all that much. He has a big frame. I used to cut down to 185-pounds. Without cutting I used to be comfortable at 210 pounds. Any grown man above 180-pounds can knock you out with one punch. At the end of the day, that’s what it boils down to. That’s the nature of the situation. By no means am I taking him lightly or thinking ‘oh, I’m two weight classes above him. I’m gonna walk through him.’ Nah, none of that. I’ve been training accordingly. I’ve been suffering months, and months, and months, day after day, in the gym, only to have multiple fight dates pushed back due to coronavirus. To finally be less than two weeks out, I’m excited. I’m ready to go out and enjoy myself, unfortunately at his expense.”
A veteran of professional mixed martial arts (MMA), Beltran is happy with his move to bare knuckle fighting. He has fought on some of the biggest stages in combat sports to include the UFC and Bellator, and amassed an 18-15 record in MMA.
“Bare knuckle is definitely my home,” Beltran said of the transition. “Going back to when I was a little kid, the original dream, the original goal was to be a professional boxer. Then MMA just kind of happened and caught fire and I was winning. Then three years go by and I’m in the big show (UFC). Bare Knuckle was similar. It caught fire here in the past two years and here we are. I would still like to do one professional boxing match. That’s like my bucket list item. But for now, this is my home. I plan on being the face of the organization, the face of the division. Ultimately, I would like to defend my title five times and retire being known as the best to ever compete in the modern-era of bare knuckle.”
One of those title defenses could eventually be against the only man to earn a bare knuckle fighting win over Beltran, Arnold Adams.
When asked about possibly facing Adams once again in a rematch, Beltran said: “Absolutely! I would definitely love to have the opportunity. I think that I have a greater understanding of the sport of bare knuckle fighting. I think that I have made some changes. I’m sure he has too. I’m sure he’s gotten better. He got his ass whooped by Chase Sherman so it is not like he went home and was perfectly happy with himself. We have both gotten better and I would definitely love to have an opportunity to get that win back.”
The road to Beltran’s recent title fight and win was not easy. Aside from the physical part of fighting, mental warfare was also involved. Beltran’s longtime girlfriend Maia Kahaunaele was also competing on the BKFC 9 fight card last November.
“I mentally prepared for the experience, leading up to that with my mind coach,” Beltran said of Maia’s fight. “We went over that, because it was a very real, emotional experience that I knew that I was going to have to go through. Whether she won or whether she lost, just seeing somebody you care so much about, go out there and fight, and then have to go out there and re-focus, and fight yourself, is a hard thing. So when it actually happened, and then she got knocked out, I was like ‘Ok, I knew that this could happen. This is what I need to do. Re-focus, alright… let’s go. It’s time for me to go out there and smash! Then after the fight, switch hats, and put on the loving boyfriend hat and just go back to being normal. I was mentally prepared for it well before it actually happened.”
Beltran did re-focus, putting on a dominant performance win over Sherman, capturing heavyweight hardware in the process.
Now with titles in hand, Beltran reflects back on what has been a legendary career, but also what is yet to come.
“Without a doubt, the top moment in my career is winning the title," Beltran said. "Winning the Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship and the Police Gazette World Title. That solidified all the hard word, all the sacrifices, all the missed birthday parties, all the missed events and stuff you go through as a fighter. It’s true man, it is a lonely road to the top, but it was worth it. But I think defending the belt and being the first one in the modern-era of BKFC to defend the title, that will definitely surpass winning it."