Shaquille O'Neal is a big fan of bare knuckle boxing and plans to invest in sport

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Shaquille O'Neal is a big fan of bare knuckle boxing and plans to invest in sport

LAKELAND, Fla. — Shaquille O’Neal was more than a casual spectator at the Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship (BKFC) event Friday night. He is an un

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LAKELAND, Fla. — Shaquille O’Neal was more than a casual spectator at the Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship (BKFC) event Friday night. He is an unabashed fan of the sport and told USA TODAY Sports that he plans to invest in it.

“These are the greatest, toughest athletes in the world,’’ O’Neal said from his ringside seat between bouts. “The fact that they’re not using gloves makes them the toughest athletes in the world. I think this is the future of fighting.’’

O’Neal said he most likely will invest in BKFC, the bareknuckle organization founded in 2018 by Dave Feldman. Feldman said completing the deal with O’Neal is a mostly a matter of “dotting the i’s and crossing t’s.’’

“Now we’ve got one of the most sought-after sports figures in the entire world,’’ Feldman said. “Who doesn’t know Shaq? And now he’s going to be part of this company and it’s going to make a lot for people want to be part of the company.’’

Shaquille O'Neal goes into the ring after a bout at the Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship.

O’Neal’s association no longer will surprise after “KnuckleMania,’’ a pay-per-view event held less than 40 miles from Raymond James Stadium, site of Super Bowl 55. After the second-to-last fight, O’Neal climbed into the ring and presented the bantamweight championship belt to Dat Nguyen, who beat Johnny Bedford for the title.

O’Neal, who was wearing camouflage, said he discovered the sport through a friend and attended his first BKFC event on Dec. 11 in Biloxi, Mississippi.

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