Former NFL linebacker Shawne Merriman has signed a deal with the World Bare Knuckle Fighting Federation (WBKFF) to compete in a boxing match later this year.
Merriman, 34, has teased the possibility of competing in combat sports, notably mixed martial arts, for years. A three-time Pro Bowl selection with the San Diego Chargers, Merriman -- whose nickname was "Lights Out" during his playing career -- retired from professional football in 2013.
"Right now, this is the best opportunity for what I want to do," Merriman said in a statement to ESPN. "I've been kicking tires for years, this is a good place for me to start. I'm looking forward to having some fun out there. I get to train for the next six to eight weeks and go show everyone what I can do."
A date and opponent for Merriman's bout has yet to be determined. The event will take place this fall in Casper, Wyoming, and is expected to air via pay-per-view online.
"We are thrilled to have Shawne as part of our team," said WBKFF CEO Tom Stankiewicz. "Shawne was a proven warrior on the field and we look forward to seeing him in the ring. We feel Shawne's signing with WBKFF opens the doors to champions from all sports, and shows that he has the guts and courage to step into this gladiator's sport."
Merriman was a standout linebacker at the University of Maryland and a Chargers first-round draft pick in 2005. He notched 39.5 sacks during his first three seasons, despite serving a four-game suspension in 2006 after testing positive for a banned substance. Injuries derailed the final five years of his career; he played just 33 games during that span.
Bare-knuckle boxing has made headlines in recent months, particularly in MMA circles. WBKFF recently announced a planned matchup between former UFC star Chris Leben and Phil Baroni. According to the promotion, additional former UFC fighters who signed include Melvin Guillard, Tom Gallicchio, Josh Neer and Isaac Vallie-Flagg.
In June, a promotion called Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship staged the first state-sanctioned bare-knuckle boxing event in U.S. history in Cheyenne, Wyoming. That event included former UFC fighters Bec Rawlings and Joey Beltran.