In 2022, Julian Lane, now an experienced bare knuckle fighter, needs but a brief introduction. He knows how quickly news moves and how viral moments work. A full decade ago, Lane was on season 16 of the UFC’s reality show “The Ultimate Fighter” and became famous for repeating his signature phrase, “Let me bang, bro!” during one episode. When the clip was posted to social media again in 2020, it garnered even more views than it originally had.
With nine bare knuckle fights on his ledger, Julian Lane is one of the sport’s more experienced combatants. Since his showdown with Leonard Garcia at BKFC 4 in Cancún, which was all the way back in February of 2019, Lane has appeared on six Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship cards already. A grudge match with Mike “Platinum” Perry at Knucklemania 2 marks his seventh appearance.
Lane has a 4-5 record in bare knuckle, and he’s 2-4 in BKFC. Normally a fighter who has lost more than they’ve won is dismissed or cast aside, but Lane’s notoriety comes from his tendency to draw a crowd as much as his fighting ability.
Fighters should probably be expected to excuse away losses, and Lane does that too. When accounting for the overall unfamiliarity with bare knuckle and the sport’s difficulty, however, the claims don’t sound far-fetched.
“I’ve fought studs every time,” Lane says with a grin. “From the beginning, in my debut bare knuckle fight, I went over to England and I fought a guy who was 17-0 and fought for a world title, and I won. When I debuted [with Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship], I debuted against Leonard Garcia in Mexico. I fought Tom Shoaff, he’s another bare knuckle stud, he’s on a win streak. Jim Alers, he’s another f*ckin’ animal. On seven days notice, Thiago Alves. And it’s always in their backyard.”
This time is different, he says. Climbing into the squared circle with Mike Perry was precisely what Lane had wanted, but he was scheduled to face Kaleb Harris at BKFC Jackson.
“I asked for Mike Perry when I saw he signed up for bare knuckle,” Lane says I think Perry was ducking me. My name came across but he wanted to pick his opponent. So I saw him in [at BKFC Tampa] and we already had social media beef.”
Lane, who has operated without a manager for almost 14 years, said he and Perry kept seeing one another in the Tampa crowd and Perry wouldn’t acknowledge him. So when Perry sat down to speak with BKFC commentators Sean Wheelock and Chris Lytle, Lane saw a moment to seize.
“I saw Mike Perry and thought, f*ck this, we’re gonna walk up and introduce ourselves. I tossed some cards at him and he got up and swung on me.”
Predictably, clips of Lane and Perry clawing at one another in a fight crowd made their way around social media.
Unlike now, there was a time when the attention wasn’t particularly helpful. Lane’s nickname used to be “Hellboy,” or “Nitrane” Lane. Before he adopted “Let Me Bang” as a nickname, having the phrase yelled at him annoyed him.
“Then I thought, you know what? That’s my f*ckin’ name,” Lane beams. “Pretty soon it’ll say that on my ID. It took me many years to face it. God, the universe work in mysterious ways. That never left me. It was always there, making my name hot. As soon as my name starts to fade, there goes somebody posting the ‘Let me bang’ video.”
People accustomed to battling in life often make good fighters. For those people, success might not be measured in the usual wins and losses—especially if they can put it all together for one evening, just one fight.
“I battled depression a lot in my life, not just because of [his The Ultimate Fighter experience], but because of the environment I put myself in. Not being consistent in training. There were times I pulled up to the parking lot, debating whether or not I was gonna go in. A lot of people face that depression, and I’ve finally beaten it.”
The lack of consistency in training hurt Lane’s record, he claims. While his family lives in Ohio, he lives in Florida and heads to Las Vegas for training camps, when he can actually have them. Not being able to see his daughters is the primary sacrifice Lane makes to have a full camp. But it’s another reason why this time is different. He’s in “the best shape mentally and physically.”
Contrary to the trash he may talk about Perry here and there, and in stark contrast to the intensity he shows at weigh-ins, during fights and commentating table scuffles, Lane talks about loving himself, loving his life and being at peace. He’s living his dream, not chasing it. Because, he says, when you chase things, they run from you. And family is everything to him.
“My family means a lot to me,” Lane is quick to say. “My pops has been battling congestive heart failure since he was 55 and he’s 74. He’s always happy, he’s always smiling. One day I might make enough money to get my pops a heart. It’s a big goal, he doesn’t get his hopes up. He’s thankful for every day he wakes up.”
The twinkle in Lane’s eye betrays a little more. People are complex, after all. Lane can be a warrior seeking enlightenment, but a warrior nevertheless. And as a fighter, repeatedly being underestimated, as Lane says he has, can prove a potent motivator.
At Knucklemania 2 there will be no guard rails, no gloves, no love lost between Lane and Perry.
“At the end of the day, I’m showing up and I’m beating [Mike Perry]’s *ss,” Lane states. “If he thinks he even stands a chance, he’s out of his mind. I’m so focused right now. I left my kids back in Ohio, made that sacrifice so I could put all my time and energy into this fight. When I do that, I’m a completely different fighter.”
Follow Patrick Connor on Twitter: @PatrickMConnor
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