Reggie Barnett Jr. is making a case for the face of the Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship promotion as he prepares to step into the squared circle for a seventh time on Nov. 13 at BKFC 14 in Miami, Florida.
Lightweight champion Johnny Bedford was set to defend his title against challenger Dat Nguyen. A recent back injury forced Bedford off the card and now Barnett Jr., steps in to face Nguyen for the promotion’s interim title.
The lead up to the fight has built a feud between the two competitors, leaving both men looking to settle the score in Miami.
“Dat has gotten really disrespectful and he’s been shooting low blows,” Barnett said. “When somebody does that, it is because they are afraid, plain and simple. If he was confident in himself as a fighter and a man he wouldn’t feel the need to belittle my character. If you want to belittle me as a fighter then that’s fine, but when you start taking it to a personal level it is because you are generally scared of that person and you have nothing else to grab on.”
Following a hand injury that temporarily derailed him, Barnett’s doctor gave him the green light to compete once again and the Nguyen fight was offered after Bedford’s withdrawal.
When asked if he is 100% confident in his recovery, Barnett was quick to reply, “Yes, and I wouldn’t care if I wasn’t. I’m still going to beat Dat’s ass even if I have to do it with one hand.”
With the champion Bedford sustaining the back injury and previously having issues cutting down to 135-pounds there is the looming question of whether he will return to the lightweight division to defend his title, or if the winner of Nguyen and Barnett will eventually graduate from interim champion to champion status.
“In all honesty, in my heart of hearts, I hope that it wouldn’t go that way,” Barnett said of the possibility. “Even though I lost to Johnny, it was still a hell of a fight. We both have the utmost respect for each other and I feel it is still a fight that needs to be ran back. In essence, I can’t accept defeat. I feel it was a great f**king fight. Artem Lobov and Jason Knight got a chance to run it back after having a great fight, why can’t I run it back? I got knocked down a few times but I got up and answered the call. Johnny didn’t leave the match unscathed. Would I want him to come back to 135-pounds? Of course, but after a back injury, do I expect him to come back to 135 first? No, not at all. I don’t see him making his BKFC return at 135-pounds right now.”
Most every fighter has a goal. BKFC heavyweight champion Joey Beltran recently stated that he wanted to successfully defend his title five times before retiring. Barnett, himself, has similar goals.
“I want to solidify my spot as one of the greatest modern-day bare knuckle fighters of all time,” the Virginia native said.
In order to become one of the greats, Barnett realizes that there are improvements that need to be made.
“I still had some maturing to do as a fighter and as a man,” Barnett said of lessons learned after his fight against Bedford at BKFC 6.
“I really felt like I lost that fight to Johnny in the head game, before the fight even took place,” Barnett said. “He was in my head a little and I’ll be honest when he hit me with that first knock down and he raised his hands, I looked up at him and excuse my language but I was like ‘you mother**ker. You think shit is sweet?’ I got up off the canvas and everything we trained for eight weeks went out the window. It was just me trying to beat him at his own game. I know that I’ve matured, grown up, and that if I go out there and fight the way Reggie fights, what I bring to the sport every time, then nobody can beat me.”
The man standing opposite Barnett on Nov. 13 is undefeated in bare knuckle and boasts an impressive boxing records as well. When asked what Nguyen brings to the table, Barnett didn’t have much praise for his future opponent.
“Nothing for me,” Barnett said. “Dat brings ring experience, that’s it. Speed, he’s not faster than me. He may be a little stronger than me because he’s older and in all honesty as you get older as a man, you do get stronger. A man truly doesn’t reach his peak strength in life until he is 60 (year of age), a lot of people don’t know that. We generally think that when we are getting older, we are declining. You see all these commercials for testosterone replacement because you are in your 40’s, that’s bullshit. A man truly doesn’t reach his peak strength until he is 60. If a dire situation arose, you could lift a car if you needed to. Your adrenaline would pump so much that you could lift a car, that’s the kind of strength that an older man possesses. I really think that’s all Dat brings, is a little bit of extra strength and ring experience because he has over 30 something boxing matches. Collectively though, I have over 200 something fights.”
Barnett’s discontent for Nguyen’s approach to the fight continued when asked for a prediction of how it will go down.
“I think he’s going to quit,” Barnett said. “I don’t think he’s built like Abby. He saw what I did to Abby and I think he’s going to quit. When I fought Abby, I told him before the fight ‘You are going to see the canvas. Are you going to get back up?’ You could see in that last knockdown in the fifth round, Abby literally willed every ounce of himself not to quit because he quit in the Bedford fight. That’s what I told him. ‘Bedford didn’t beat you. You gave up on yourself.’ He knew that and he wasn’t going to quit in our fight. Dat isn’t built like that. He’s gonna quit. If I put him on his ass a couple of times he is not gonna want to get back up and keep taking the ass whooping.”