Christine Ferea is a veteran of Muay Thai and mixed martial arts (she fought three times for Invicta in 2017), but this weekend she’s trying something completely new: bare knuckle boxing. On Saturday night she’ll be competing at Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship 2: New Era in Biloxi, Mississippi.
At BKFC 2 Ferea is slated to fight Maria Andaverde, another MMA vet, at 125 lbs. The event also features well known MMA veterans Kendall Grove, Bec Rawlings, Chris Lytle, and Charles Bennett. Ferea’s fight on Saturday will be only the second sanctioned women’s bare knuckle boxing match in US history (Rawlings vs. Alma Garcia at BKFC 1 in June was the first).
Ferea was offered a bout on the first BKFC card, but she had to decline. In her last Invicta bout, against Karina Rodriguez in December, Ferea broke her hand. After she had surgery BKFC came back to Ferea and she eagerly signed up for a fight sans gloves.
“I’m always interested in doing something new with fighting, anything that would open up my game,” said Ferea to Bloody Elbow. “It’s the purest form of fighting and that’s kind of how I looked at it when I first got offered a contract.”
Ferea said fighting at BKFC also gave her an opportunity to get her “boxing on point”, something which she believes will benefit her in many other combat sports she might compete in. In spending so much time boxing, she said she’s also noticed how different that discipline is to what she is used to.
“In Muay Thai, the coaching that I have had previously, is just all about power,” said Ferea. “Power, power, power, not much footwork. Just power and beautiful kicks and knees and elbows, but boxing has so much more moving and head movement, technical things, combos. I’m learning so much more in boxing.”
Ferea added that the boxing training she’s undergone since December has also added new levels to her cardio and work ethic. “It’s been awesome. I’ve been really excited and I’ve had a lot of fun just preparing for this. And I know it’s different than boxing, because I can’t go in there and just start swinging like I have gloves on. I have to pick my shots and be super technical. So everything I haven’t been in my whole career, I’m having to be for this sport.”
In preparation for BKFC 2 Ferea said she has spent approximately 80% of her camp without gloves on. “I had to callous them up and hurt them a little bit and get them ready to hit bone to bone,” she revealed. “I want them to be as strong as possible and I don’t want to break one again. So I hit the bags with no gloves, I hit pads with no gloves. I do a lot of strengthening of my hands and body conditioning as well.”
Ferea’s first training session without gloves was a rude awakening that left her hands bloody and raw. It’s only recently that she’s started wearing gloves more often in training, because she needed the month old scabs — which would tear open each session — to heal in time for the actual fight. That first session was especially painful because Ferea was so recently removed from surgery.
The pain that comes with striking without gloves is something Ferea has had to teach herself to get used to. Now, she said, she doesn’t feel anything when she’s hitting a bag bare knuckle. Even though her hands might not hurt in the actual fight, Ferea knows she still needs to be careful — especially when targeting the hardest part of the human body; the head.
“I plan to mix it up,” said Ferea when discussing whether she will attack the body more than the solid bones of the skull. “I can go 80 to 100% power on the body and maybe 20 to 40 on the head. Just as long as I’m being precise and not trying to take her head off. I have to keep her honest, so I can’t not hit the head, but of course I’m not going to hit the head as much.”
“I still have to see,” continued Ferea. “This is my first time doing bare knuckle so I don’t know how much my hands can take. I don’t know what it feels like to hit the head without gloves so I’m going to have to adjust during the fight. I do have a plan going into it, but I have an open mind as well. It’s a test fight, really. I hope it goes a few rounds so I can see what it’s like and I can gauge for my next camp.”
Ferea’s opponent Andaverde is of course new to sanctioned bare knuckle boxing. The 36-year-old has a 2-4 MMA record with bouts versus Danielle Taylor and Jaimelene Nievera. Ferea said she watched some of Andaverde’s fights, but admitted there’s only so much that can be learned from watching her opponent compete in a different sport.
“I kind of want to see her habits,” said Ferea. “I watched some of her MMA fights and I was like, well that’s not going to apply in this. And her bad habits there or her strong habits there, might not factor in bare knuckle. So I’m just kind of picking up who she is. I’m just getting a general idea of her speed and her movement.”
Opposite Andaverde on Saturday night, Ferea thinks it might be noticeable that they are both still trying to figure out bare knuckle boxing. However, Ferea is confident that once the feeling out process is over, an exciting fight will unfold.
“I’ve always been a fighter who gets in there and pretty much fights,” claimed Ferea. “I try and be smart about it, the more years I’ve gotten into my career. But I think people are going to see a technical, bloody fight [at BKFC 2]. This girl, she’s a tough girl, even though she’s a little inactive. I think she’ll bring out the fight in me and I’ll bring out the fight in her. So I think it will be a really exciting fight. She’s Mexican, which means she’s tough as hell, so she’s not going to go down easy.”
Along with being excited at the prospect of getting into a tough fight, Ferea — who has long advocated for her fellow ‘misfits’ — is delighted to be a part of something that’s unusual and somewhat misunderstood. However, Ferea is hoping the underground-feel of bare knuckle fighting is something that will seep away in the years to come.
“I guess it’s still not too respected,” said Ferea. “But when people watch it they’ll notice it takes a lot more skill than they think. Bare knuckle just sounds like brawlers do it, but I’m happy to be a part of it and help it grow.”
Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship 2: A New Era begins at 8PM ET on Saturday, August 25th. The pay-per-view is available on FITE.