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Joey Beltran, Houston Alexander renew 12-year-old rivalry at Friday's BKFC 33 headliner

The two former UFC, Bellator veterans crossed paths on MMA's regional scene in 2010 and now meet each other again in a bareknuckle boxing bout.
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On Friday, big-show veterans Joey Beltran and Houston Alexander will renew a rivalry that was launched more than 12 years ago.

The pair first crossed paths in 2010 at very different stages of their respective careers. Alexander was competing for the first time since being released from the UFC following a rather listless performance against legendary streetfighter Kimbo Slice at The Ultimate Fighter 10 Finale, while Beltran was still making his way up the regional scene, hoping for a shot at MMA's highest level.

When the pair faced off on the Oklahoma regional scene for an MMA bout, it was Beltran who was awarded a second-round TKO victory, and he was given an invitation to the UFC immediately after.

Twelve years later, the two have been paired together for a bareknuckle boxing clash and will headline Friday's "BKFC 33: Beltran vs. Alexander" event, which streams live on the BKFC app (7 p.m. ET) from Liberty First Credit Union Arena in Omaha, Nebraska. Beyond the pair's history, the cruiserweight matchup has real meaning for the promotion, with Alexander (2-0) currently ranked No. 5 in the division, and Beltran (5-3-1) cutting down to make his debut in the weight class after previously serving as BKFC's heavyweight champion.

Alexander hails from Omaha and said he jumped at the offer to face Beltran in the night's main event.

"My initial thought, honestly, was just, 'Sign me up,'" Alexander said. "My approach to the fight game does not change. Whoever you put in front of me, let's go – and it's an ex champion, and it's an ex-opponent that I've had before that I lost to, that I thought wasn't a fair stoppage? Guess what? Sign me up."

Alexander enters the cage at an astonishing 50 years old, but he's also posted two wins for BKFC in the past 14 months, and neither of his opponents were able to make it out of the first round, so his age hasn't exactly proved a hindrance. Meanwhile, Beltran is 40 and coming off a pair of losses, though they came against BKFC's reigning heavyweight champion, as well as the current No. 5 contender.

"That's pretty cool," Beltran said. "It's two old-school MMA guys, old-school UFC guys going at it. All right, he's 50 years old, I'm 40 years old, so it's just like two uncles having a disagreement at Thanksgiving and going out in the parking lot and fighting it out. We're some pretty tough old dudes, that's for damn sure, so it's definitely going to be a good show for the fans."

Alexander and Beltran each spent time under the UFC and Bellator banners during their extensive fighting careers, and each was known as a knockout artist during their runs at the top. The younger Beltran is considered a slight favorite according to the oddsmakers, but "The Mexicutioner" admits he's not expecting an easy task.

"He's looking good," Beltran said of his opponent. "Everyone wants to beat that drum, 'Well, he's 50 years old.' Yeah, but he knocked those other two guys out that were way younger than him. He's up 2-0 right now in BKFC. Spectacular knockouts. I'm coming off two losses, so on paper, he might be the favorite, but I don't really care about that kind of stuff. I'm just focused on taking him out, and doing it with taking as less damage as possible."

Friday's main event will certainly provide some intriguing opportunities for the night's winner, but perhaps more importantly, bragging rights are on the line for two longtime veterans of combat sports. Twelve years is an awful long time to wait for a shot at revenge.

"Whatever hair that I have left on the back of my head still tingles," Alexander said. "I'm like, oh, man, you know, that's one of those things where any loss to any opponent, it still sits in the back of your mind. I think what happens is when you get the opportunity to redeem yourself, hey man, you might as well take it, and this is one of those opportunities for me."

This story first published at SI.com/MMA.