Travis "The Animal" Thompson has a storied history with Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship founder David Feldman Sr., and the entire Feldman family. The 35-year old combat sports enthusiast from Pennsylvania competed in both boxing and mixed martial arts under Feldman's promotional labels.
"I started boxing with Marty (Feldman)," Thompson said.
Marty Feldman, David Sr.'s late father, was an acclaimed middleweight boxer who possessed a solid knockout punch. He won 20 of 23 professional fights from 1953 to 1962, scoring 19 knockouts. In 2006, Feldman was inducted into the Pennsylvania Boxing Hall of Fame both as a middleweight boxer and a trainer.
"Marty was my very first trainer ever. Throughout my boxing career, 22 or 23 boxing bouts, all of them, David has been a part of. That's how I got in to bare knuckle. I pretty much said I was done with boxing because life got in the way. I work construction and have my own landscape company. I also love to fight, but one thing had to give. I have two kids and enough was enough, so I said 'screw it, I'm done boxing.'"
Time passed and once David Feldman Sr., had worked to get bare knuckle boxing approved and sanctioned, Thompson says he received the phone call that brought him back to competition.
"Dave's like an older brother to me and he is someone I truly look up to. His approval and respect is what means most to me," Thompson said. "When he said he had it (bare knuckle boxing approved), I just wanted to do it to make him proud. I never stopped wanting to box. The desire was always there. It's never gone. If you ever watched 'Rocky, he says he still has something in the basement, if you know what I mean."
"Getting a belt means the world to me because I want Dave and his son Dave Jr., to hand me the belt. After Reggie (Barnett) wins it, I'm going to knock him the f**k out and get it."
Thompson's claim that Barnett will win the title is a prediction as to how the remainder of the Bare Knuckle FC lightweight tournament will play out. Barnett defeated Thompson by way of unanimous decision in the promotion's inaugural show in June 2018. Barnett went on to defeated Clayton Burns in the tournament's quarter-finals while Thompson would later knock out Ivan Rocka.
Even though Thompson is coming off a win, he still isn't happy with where he is at.
"My number one critic is always going to be me. Even though I beat Rocka, it could have been better. I have to go back to the drawing board," Thompson said.
"Even when I get that lightweight belt, I'm still not going to be happy with myself. That's the difference between those champs that you see. They are happy that they got there. I'm not happy. I'm not happy with how I perform. Anything I do, I can always do better. I always look down on everything that I have done and I try to make it better."
"I don't give a f**k if you put me in the ring with Paulie Malignaggi. I would actually want that more than anyone else," Thompson said.
Malignaggi, of course, is the former two-division world champion boxer and boxing commentator who recently signed an exclusive deal to compete for Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship (BKFC). He is expected to make his BKFC debut in June 2019 at a location yet to be determined.
"That's what pisses me off most," Thompson said. "Everyone is talking about Paulie Malignaggi and Conor McGregor. Well guess what? This is my f**king playground. These two p***ies are coming into my playground. They are somebody. Paulie a big name. Guess what? That's in boxing. You think I'm going to give you three feet apart? Hell no. I know you are going to take that opportunity to try and poke at me the whole time. That's not happening. My head is too hard, you'll break your f**king hand.
"I want this fight because I want to make this sport big and I want to do this for Dave (Feldman)," Thompson said of the potential matchup with Malignaggi.
Despite now competing for the same promotion, Malignaggi and Thompson are not strangers to one another.
"Paulie actually worked the corner of a fighter I boxed in Staten Island," Thompson said.
"I beat him pretty good. He had two black eyes, but I lost the fight by a split decision because I fought a Staten Island boy in Staten Island. He told me that. Paulie Malignaggi told me that. I didn't know who he was. This guy comes up to me and catches me off guard. I thanked him, but guess what? When we meet this time, I'm here to f**king destroy you.. You're going to break your hand on my head. You are not going to hurt me."
As of a press time, a fight between Malignaggi and Thompson has not been booked and Thompson does not currently have a fight lined up. He is hoping to be the man tasked with welcoming Malignaggi to BKFC.