After 14 years and 27 fights with the UFC, Thiago Alves found himself longing for a fresh start. So, when the promotion offered him a new deal after a pair of losses to Laureano Staropoli and Tim Means, he respectfully declined, and signed an exclusive contract with upstart bare knuckle promotion Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship (BKFC) instead.
“I’ve been in MMA for such a long time, I’ve been with the UFC for such a long time,” Alves told BJPENN.com hours after his signing with BKFC was announced. “I’m excited for a new stage. Anything new at this stage in my life is super exciting. I’ve been following BKFC for a little bit now, and I think it’s savage.
“The money is great,” the 36-year-old added. “I have no complaints when it comes to that. That was my goal, to get paid. I’m able to do that and I’m able to fist fight, so I can’t really complain. I think this is a new wave of combat sports right now, and I’m excited to be in it right now and take this thing to a whole different level.
“I was talking to a few other organizations, but nothing really interested be as much as BKFC did because it’s something new.”
Alves has actually competed sans gloves before, back in the early days of his MMA career, but this will be his first foray into the ultra-violent sport of bare knuckle boxing. He plans to train diligently to make the transition as seamless as possible.
He’s already begun his preparations at American Top Team in Florida, and is immediately enjoying the process.
“I did fight bare knuckle back in Brazil, but it was MMA,” he said. “I’ve been a martial artist my whole life. I’m very disciplined. If I train for something, I’m going to execute. There’s no way around it, that’s how I’ve always been.
“This week I started my so-called camp,” he added. “We’re not kicking, we’re not grappling, we’re just focusing on cardio, strength and conditioning, and boxing. It’s kind of nice not having to worry about not getting choked out and all the injuries that come along with hard wrestling and hard grappling.
“I don’t think it will be that much of a transition coming from MMA to bare knuckle. When you think about it, MMA uses four oz gloves, that’s really not that much padding. I don’t wrap my hands a lot when I fight either. The only difference is you might get cut a little more. I’m a good looking guy, but I’m not a model, so I don’t worry about that.”
Alves intends to make his BKFC debut in April or May, in BKFC’s 165-pound division. While he’s already been called out by fellow UFC veteran Isaac Vallie-Flagg, it’s not clear who will be standing across from him in his debut, and he’s confident he’ll excel no matter who he’s fighting.
“I think this fighting style fits perfect to what I’m able to do inside the cage,” Alves said. “Everybody knows me for my kicks, but when it comes to boxing, just throwing hands, dude, I’m a sniper. I know what to do and what not to do. I’m going to be in the pocket, I’m going to be inside, and I’m going to cause damage.
“It’s going to be awesome,” he added. “I’ve been hitting the bag without gloves and I can just feel the power. My knuckles are getting harder. My forearms are getting stronger. I’m going to break people’s faces. I’m going break people’s ribs. It’s going to be a beautiful thing.”
Alves’ goals in the BKFC ring are simple: break faces and ribs until the promotion wraps a belt around his waist.
“I’m going to be a champion,” he said confidently. “I’m 100% dedicated to be the best I can be.
“I’m going to take this to a whole ‘nother level.”
Once he accomplishes that goal, he’ll take a step back and consider his next move, but he currently doesn’t intend to fight past 38 years old.
“Because of this new, fresh start, I feel rejuvenated, so we’ll see,” he said. “I definitely don’t want to be fighting forever. I think 38 is my cut-off age.
“I’m so resolved, so focused on bare knuckle fighting and that’s where my head should be right now,” he concluded. “Once I’m done with this chapter in my life, we’ll see what’s next for me, but right now I’m 100% in on fist fighting.”
This article first appeared on BJPENN.com on 1/23/2020.