CHEYENNE – A federal lawsuit filed here Tuesday is looking for an emergency injunction to stop an upcoming bare-knuckle fighting event at Cheyenne Ice and Events Center.
The suit was filed in U.S. District Court by Corey Williams, an Evans, Colorado-based promoter, who has been putting on mixed discipline fight cards since 2002 in Wyoming, Colorado, Montana and Nebraska.
The June 2 Bare Knuckle Fighting Championships card is set to be the first professional event of its kind sanctioned by a state commission since 1889.
BKFC promoter David Feldman claimed in multiple interviews that his efforts paved the way for sanctioning from the Wyoming Combat Sports Commission. Williams’ suit alleges Feldman’s remarks cost Williams a deal with The History Channel to produce a docu-series about his efforts to bring the sport into the mainstream.
Feldman’s actions are “part of a scheme to gain complete control over Bare Knuckle Fighting and get recognition as the originator of the modern sport,” court documents read.
Williams’ suit claims he opened the door for sanctioning by putting his promotions on a year-long hiatus in order to hold closed-door bare-knuckle bouts for research purposes. Doctors gave combatants physicals before and after their bouts. Emergency medical personnel also were available to fighters.
Williams presented the information from his study to the Wyoming Combat Sports Commission to show them the sport was safe.
“I have stayed transparent with the state and shared all of my information and experience because I wanted to get it passed and get regulations in place,” Williams said.
“Sanctioning means I can go to bigger venues and bigger markets. There is more opportunity for the fighters and more opportunities for revenue, especially on the television end.”
Bryan Pedersen, chairman of the Wyoming Combat Sports Commission, declined to comment on the suit because his group is a regulatory body and not an enforcement agency. The commission can’t act unless a legal judgement has been rendered.
Promoter licenses and event permits are issued on a first-come, first-served basis through the commission’s website, Pedersen said.
As much as Williams would like to hold the first sanctioned professional bare-knuckle card, he understands Feldman filed first. However, Williams does take umbrage with Feldman trying to take credit for getting the sport sanctioned.
“There are Wyoming fighters who made this happen,” Williams said. “… I especially want my fighters to get the credit they deserve. They’re the ones who spilled blood to make this happen.
“That hasn’t happened so far. Every story that has come out has been all about David Feldman paving the way for this. He hasn’t done s---.”
Williams’ efforts did influence the state commission, Pedersen said.
“He is one of the people who were doing it in the state that made us want to regulate it,” he said.
Regulation is important for a number of reasons.
“It protects the venue, it protects the participants, it protects the fans, and it protects the promoters,” Pedersen said. “We’re there to enforce all the rules on the participants for the promoters. All of the promoters we spoke to were happy with regulation because they want their sport to be seen as legitimate.”
Feldman, who lives in Pennsylvania, wasn’t aware of the lawsuit when contacted by WyoSports on Friday. After being forwarded a copy of the lawsuit, Feldman declined to comment on specific allegations without consulting his lawyer.
Feldman did say many of the claims lack merit. That includes claims he has tried to damage Williams’ business and has a history of no-shows.
“I have zero breach-of-contract claims against me,” he said. “I do nothing but upstanding business. I pay everyone I am supposed to pay.”
The Wyoming Combat Sports Commission requires promoters to buy a $10,000 surety bond, Pederson said.
“We do that to cover the ticket-holders,” he said. “If the promoter bails, we use the surety bond. That’s the biggest requirement for doing this because you don’t want people skipping out. People have done that before.”
Williams’ lawsuit – and others like it – are fueled by jealousy, Feldman said.
“A lot of people don’t like the fact that I get a goal in my head and I get things done,” he said. “Other people don’t have that tenacity. … I deal with this a lot. Everyone on my team has told me if I’m going to be successful that I’m going to be a target.
“I’m trying to be a pioneer of the sport, and that makes me a target. I’ll take it as it comes. I’m going to put on one hell of a show in Cheyenne, Wyoming.”