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Even after turning 41 last month, Diego Sanchez’s combat sports career continues in earnest.

The first-ever winner of ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ and veteran of some 44 mixed martial arts bouts, Sanchez has signed a deal to fight former boxing world champion Austin Trout, 37, as part of BKFC’s Knucklemania 3 event on February 17 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It will represent both fighters’ first bare-knuckle fight and will serve as the co-main event for the promotion’s annual flagship show.

Sanchez was previously linked to other bare-knuckle contests but opted instead to fight in MMA last year against Kevin Lee, losing a close decision back in March of last year. His final bout in the UFC came in September 2020 in a losing effort against Jake Matthews.

The bout was cleared to proceed following a meeting of the New Mexico Athletic Commission, with commission giving the fight the green light by a vote of 3-1. A prior hearing in December featured objections as to Sanchez’s medical health which prompted the submission of additional medical testing, which appeared to satisfy the commission with the exception of commissioner Jerome O’Connell.

He said: “[Concerns] for me centre around Diego Sanchez’s long-standing concerns about neurological issues and concussions, and his concerns in articles and interviews about brain damage. Those, for me, haven’t been alleviated by an MRI and a neurology report. I have some of the same reservations that we talked about when we last got together.

“… I find it compelling that there are concerns outside of our body with this fight. That gives me pause.”

Austin Trout has professional boxing record of 36-5-1 and has shared the ring previously with the likes of Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez and Jermall Charlo. He is a former WBA (Regular) light middleweight title and holds a win over boxing icon Miguel Cotto from back in 2012.