GREAT FALLS — The last time Kai Stewart entered the Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship squared circle, his night was short.
A short right uppercut sent opponent Daniel Gary to the canvas in the first round bringing a sold out crowd in Great Falls to its feet.
"The dude had no idea where he was whenever he woke up,” Stewart said. “To beat him in front of my home crowd, it takes me back to high school wrestling like the crosstown duals, having the whole crowd scream at you. And that fired me up then and it fires me up now."
The viral knockout moved Stewart to 2-0 in his BKFC career, and kickstarted a potential rise to stardom.
“From social media stuff kicking off to getting able to showcase my skill set, my hard work and dedication,” Stewart said. “It's like this is like a dream come true for me."
And the promotion rewarded Stewart for his efforts. He’s currently the third ranked featherweight in the country, and will compete in a No. 1 contender bout, against the No. 2 ranked fighter in BKFC - Rusty Crowder from Georgia. The fight will take place on Sept. 10 in Great Falls.
“Really want to see a quick knock out again just because it is bare knuckle and I think I possess the skillsets to do so,” Stewart said. “And I think that just the way he starts, the way that he is expecting the fight to go, I can switch it up quick.”
Perhaps the most impressive part of Stewart’s rise is what he does outside of fighting. He’s a full-time student at the University of Providence, and a member of the Argo wrestling team.
"I have funny conversations with my advisors every single day. That I go in and they're like, 'Why are you still here? Like, you're doing so well,'” Stewart said. "I'm like, 'Well, school's important.'”
Juggling school and fighting is no small feat. But it keeps Stewart grounded, and moving toward his ultimate goal. Bringing a BKFC title to Great Falls.
“We're a fight community, and nobody's really stuck with it,” Stewart said. "And I'm going to stick with it, and I'm going to be a world champion.”
BKFC 29: Montana II is set for Sept. 10 at the Pacific Steel and Recycling Four Seasons Arena in Great Falls. Preliminary fights start at 6 p.m., with the main card starting at 7 p.m.
Several other Montana fighters will also appear on the card including Joe Riggs, Dallas Davison, Braeden Tovey, Louie Lopez, Dylan Schulte, Monte Klistoff, Leo Bercier, Keith Kelly and Koda Greenwood.