The town of Maunabo on the southern coast of Puerto Rico is a lot warmer than Down East Maine almost any day of the year, but for Chris Sarro it’s just the training locale he believes will help him take his bare-knuckle fighting career to the next level.
The 32-year-old Ellsworth native has been based at fellow fighter Elvin Brito’s camp for the last five weeks in advance of Friday night’s light heavyweight bout against Ehsanullah Kakar on the Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship 17 card in Birmingham, Alabama.
“In my heart I wanted to do this in Ellsworth so people could all come to the gym and watch me train, but to be able to continue to entertain them at this level I had to make the move with my camp,” Sarro said. “I’m not the king of the jungle any more, and I had to take myself out of the little pond and get into the big pond down here.”
Sarro is 2-1 in the BKFC after his first defeat last December by second-round knockout to Josh Burns at BKFC 15 in Biloxi, Mississippi.
That made the former Northern New England Golden Gloves amateur boxing champion take stock of his fighting future. The result was his decision to move his training base from Ellsworth to a region heavy in combat sports tradition, particularly boxing.
“That loss was the best thing to happen for my career,” Sarro said. “I hadn’t lost a fight since the amateurs, so I wouldn’t have made any adjustments if I had won. But losing that fight was a blessing because I had to make changes and they were the best choices I’ve made in my career.”
Sarro and Brito became friends when both fighters scored victories at BKFC 11 last July.
Sarro vacationed on Brito’s home turf a month later, then helped Brito finish training for his last fight in March. More recently Sarro has been back in Maunabo preparing for BKFC 17 under coach Cesar Gonzalez with Brito, fellow BKFC fighter Brandon Lambert, friend and sparring partner Chris Lawrence of Ellsworth and local boxers.
Training camp routinely included three daily workout sessions as well as early morning runs up a mountain known as “La Pica,” all designed to get down to the light heavyweight limit of 205 pounds. He had needed to gain weight in order to fight the 265-pound Burns at heavyweight.
“My confidence has never been this high because I’ve never done the things I’ve done here to prepare for this fight,” said Sarro, ranked fifth in Knucklepedia’s BKFC light heavyweight rankings. “Elvin’s really brought out the technical side of me.”
Sarro said the buildup to this fight has lacked the verbal animosity that preceded his battle with Burns, who parlayed his victory at BKFC 15 into the BKFC 17 main event against Frank Tate.
“This opponent is extremely respectful and I like that because it clears out a lot of clutter that can get in the way of proper performance,” he said.
Kakar is a native of Afghanistan who is 1-1 in bare-knuckle fighting and, according to Tapology.com, has fought as light as 165 pounds.
“He hasn’t had many fights so there’s not a lot to see,” Sarro said. “I respect all of his power and ability. From the clips I have seen he seems like a very strong man.
“But I couldn’t be more prepared.”