On November 9, UFC veteran Isaac Vallie-Flagg stepped through the ropes of the World Bare Knuckle Fighting Federation (WBKFF) ring for a gloveless scrap with Corey Simpson. More than two months later, Vallie-Flagg and many other fighters who competed on the inaugural WBKFF card are still awaiting payment.
When Vallie-Flagg drew attention to his outstanding WBKFF payment on Twitter last week, he received a response from MMA legend Bas Rutten, who was appointed as WBKFF president ahead of the November card. Rutten assured Vallie-Flagg that his payment is coming soon, allegedly once WBKFF founder Tomasz Stankiewicz receives the pay-per-view revenue for the card.
Isaac, give it two more weeks, that’s when money comes free. He is working on it he tells me all the time, he also has paid a bunch of fighters some money when he heard they didn’t have anything. A guy who doesn’t want to set everything straight wouldn’t do that. Very sorry for
— Bas Rutten (@BasRuttenMMA) January 10, 2019
Despite this comment from Bas Rutten, Isaac Vallie-Flagg isn’t sure why he and the other fighters who competed at WBKFF 1 still haven’t been paid.
“From what Bas Rutten is saying, they’re supposed to be getting pay-per-view money, and hopefully we get paid from that pay-per-view money,” Vallie-Flagg told BJPENN.com this week. “Going into this, Bas said he saw money, and there was a frozen account because of whatever [reason]. I’m just wondering if there was a frozen account. It’s been two months now. I just don’t understand why they can’t get that account unfrozen.
“They’re trying to chip away,” he added. “They’ve paid some guys some money. I know they owe [co-main event fighter] Dakota Cochrane like $50,000 and they’ve paid him like $2000 of that, which is not awesome. Guys have had their cars repo’d.Tomasz Stankiewicz told Joey Angelo he couldn’t reply to him because he’s taking his family on vacation. That’s kind of a slap in the face to guys who are losing cars and can’t afford stuff when you’re taking whatever money you have to go on vacation with. I think that’s a slap in the face to the guys who’ve been fighting.”
Vallie-Flagg says that he and several other WBKFF fighters have already started exploring a number of legal options as they attempt to track down their missing money.
“There’s been an attorney contacted on behalf of the fighters,” he said. “Some people went to the Wyoming Athletic Commission, who we’re not getting any answers back from. Some people have taken their fraudulent checks to the police in their areas to pursue, if not civil stuff, actual criminal stuff that way. I’m going to try to wait until the pay-per-view money hits, and then I’m going to do what ever I need to to pursue that — both criminal and civil.”
While Vallie-Flagg is attempting to maintain his optimism, he has understandable doubts that he’ll ever receive the money he’s owed by WBKFF.
“The part of me that wants to believe in the best in people believes I’m going to get paid, but the realistic part of me thinks that we’re not going to get paid,” he said.
Despite his experiences with WBKFF, Isaac Vallie-Flagg really enjoyed the experience of fighting sans gloves, and has been exploring other avenues in hopes of doing so again soon. He’s even been in talks with English bareknuckle promotion BKB about challenging bareknuckle legend Jimmy Sweeney. Unfortunately, it doesn’t sound like this fight will happen — at least not yet.
“The Sweeney thing, we just couldn’t come to a financial agreement,” he said. “It’s seems like they’re still — not to sound insulting — but a smaller, regional show. You know, Sweeney is kind of their guy, and they were telling me what they could pay me, and I didn’t feel like it was enough. But I would love to fight Jimmy Sweeney. I watched some of his fights, and I think it’d be a fun fight for both of us and for the fans.
“It’s just a matter of getting something I’m comfortable with to fight Sweeney, and something they can afford to bring me over on.”
Vallie-Flagg has also been in touch with Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship (BKFC), another upstart American promotion that, unlike WBKFF, actually pays its fighters.
“Dave Feldman, the owner, he’s extremely busy with the Cancun card they have coming up,” Vallie-Flagg said. “We’ve kind of texted back and forth a couple of times now and tried to get in touch, but again I know he’s extremely busy. But I’d love to fight for any of the bareknuckle organizations and staying in The States would be great. I’d love to fight for Feldman, it seems like they’re starting to put together some great cards.”
If Isaac Vallie-Flagg isn’t able to track down another bareknuckle fight, he’d also be happy to don the four-ounce gloves and compete in mixed martial arts again. His management has already been in contact with Bellator MMA and Brave CF to that end.
“My managers have reached out to the guys at Bellator and Brave and a few other ones,” he said. “Bellator wants to use me as a feeder guy to their up-and-comers, which is fine with me. I like that idea. There’s no contract or anything, and they said they don’t have a fight for me now, but I don’t care if I look like the old guy who’s coming in to get beat up because I have some surprises for people.
“At this point, any of the bigger organizations… PFL, Brave, Bellator,” he added. “Any of them, I’d love to get on with. I really just want to fight. I’m feeling really good, really healthy, and I just want to go out and get some fights, whether it be MMA, boxing… we’ve talked to Lion Fight a little bit… I know it sounds I’m all over the place with what I want to do, but at this point I just want to fight somebody.”
Vallie-Flagg is also interested in heading to Japan to compete in the RIZIN Fighting Federation ring — though he admits he’d have to contend with a fear of flying.
“I would fight for them too, it’s just I have this fear of flying,” he said. “The first fight would be getting to Japan.”
If Vallie-Flagg were to head to RIZIN, there’s one fight he’d be particularly interested — a rematch with Japanese legend Takanori Gomi, who he battled in a Fight of the Night winning UFC scrap in 2014.
“There are interesting fights in RIZIN,” he said. “I mean, shit, I know Gomi’s fighting over there. It’d be fun to do another three more rounds with Gomi.
“I’ve been a fan of Gomi’s for a long time, so getting to fight him was awesome,” he continued. “I would love to put in another three rounds with a dude like that. He’s coming off a really good win over Melvin, he knocked Melvin Guillard out.”
“It seems like he’s got some confidence back in Japan, I know he injured his knee, and not out of disrespect, I just think it’d be a fun fight.”
Whether he’s wearing gloves or not, whether it’s in the United States or Japan, Isaac Vallie-Flagg just wants to fight again. While he knows his retirement is inevitable, he feels that he’s got a few good years left, and doesn’t want to waste them.
“I feel like I still have a few more good years of fighting in me,” he said. “I don’t think I’ll ever compete at the highest level, being 40-something, but I really do feel like I have a few more good years of fighting in me.”
This article first appeared on BJPENN.COM on 1/15/2019.