TAMPA — This weekend, BYB Extreme takes over the Florida State Fairgrounds to host a bare-knuckle boxing competition. For Washington natives, JD Burns and his wife Skylar, bare-knuckle boxing is a mixed martial arts bonding experience.
JD is fighting for the 165-pound world title. Skylar is making her pro debut. Both said there's always a level of concern, but they just want the other to be just as healthy mentally as they are physically.
"I don’t even worry when she’s out here fighting. I train with her every day. So I know what she’s capable of," JD said after the official weigh-ins. "If it’s all up here good, I’ll be like hit 'Hit her again, honey! Face punch!'"
"Being one of the few girls at our gym for the past nine years, we get a lot of big guys in there all the time," Skylar said. "And we are big into competitions. We’re all getting each other ready. We punch each other in the face and then we hug afterwards. It’s all fine after that.
Bare-knuckle fighting is gaining momentum among mixed martial arts fans in the U.S. One of the main reasons is because it attracts a variety of fighters with a variety of different backgrounds.
"It’s still getting brought up, to even the MMA fighters and the boxers who are here, they realize we’ve been fighting before," JD said. "Most people here are like, 'Look, we made it! We did it! We’re all high five-ing each other. I weighed in with my guy. I was like win or lose, first shots are on me after the fight."
The bare-knuckle discipline is the new kid on the MMA block. JD and Skylar anxious to see how big the sport can get.
"It’s pioneering for the sport for when it becomes bigger," Skylar added. "Because it’s going to become bigger than what it is now."
"Those million-dollar budget movies are great, but it doesn’t take anything away from the independent movies. You wanna watch that, too. It’s the same thing," JD said about sport's following. "It’s independent until everybody sees it and turns it mainstream. This isn’t human cock-fighting. This is an actual sport where everybody respects each other."
JD likes to keep the mood light wherever he goes. That makes it easy for his wife to know when he might time off after a brutal fight.
"If he’s not cracking jokes after the fights, then I’ll get concerned," Skylar joked. "JD, he’s such a happy guy. He’s always cracking jokes. As soon as he stops that, you might need to check him out a bit more."
The fights begin tonight at 8 P.M. They'll be streamed live and free on the BYB Extreme YouTube and Facebook pages.