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MMA

Ronaldo Souza throws a punch at Chris Weidman during their middleweight MMA bout at UFC 230 on Sunday at Madison Square Garden in New York.

Every June, the Casper Events Center is home to the College National Finals Rodeo, where national champions are crowned.

Friday, the Events Center will crown champions in a much different sport as the World Bare Knuckle Fighting Federation holds its inaugural event there.

The “Rise of the Titans” will be headlined by a WBKFF middleweight title fight between Johny “Bigg Rigg” Hendricks and “Irish” Brennan Ward.

“I am super excited about our first show,” WBKFF President Bas Rutten said in a release. “Every single person I’ve talked to who has heard about this event let me know what a crazy good card we have.”

Hendricks won the Ultimate Fighting Championship title belt in 2014 when he defeated Robbie Lawlor at UFC 171 in Dallas. Ward was a top contender in Bellator for years.

In other matches on the card:

— Mixed Martial Arts veterans Chris “The Crippler” Leben and Phil Baroni will meet for the light heavyweight title.

— In a special heavyweight fight, former NFL All-Pro linebacker Shawne Merriman will take on MMA veteran Mike “The Rhino” Bourke.

— Christina Marks, the 2017 Ultimate Fihter runner-up will square off against professional boxer Jasmine Clarkson for the WBKFF Flyweight Championship.

— The WBKFF will also launch its $100,000 Lightweight Tournament, which showcases eight fighters in four separate bouts. The winners will advance to the semifinals at the next WBKFF event.

Doors open at 5 p.m. with the main card scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. Tickets start at $10 with ringside seats available for $500.

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Sports Editor

Jack Nowlin returned to the Star-Tribune in 2007 after eight years covering Michigan State University athletics. A Wyoming native, and a graduate of Jeffrey City High School and the University of Wyoming, Jack serves as the Star-Tribune’s sports editor.

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