Rakim Cleveland (18-9) will fight fellow light heavyweight Rashid Yusupov (9-0) on Thursday night at PFL 2018 #2. All tournament winners will receive $1 million at the end of the year, something that could help not only Cleveland, but also his family.
“The Boogeyman” has a wife and two boys, who are one and two years old. The family of four is living in a condo in Florida after they recently moved from Des Moines, IA.
“Winning the $1 million would be huge for us,” Cleveland told MMASucka. “It’d be a nice way to solidify ourselves in our new life in Florida, buy a home and lay down a future foundation for our boys.”
Cleveland, who’s originally from Dayton, TX, is now training at mega-gym American Top Team in Coconut Creek. He’s enjoyed the gym’s atmosphere and the training capabilities it affords him.
“It’s nice to show up at the gym and already know what to do and not have to figure out,” he said of the gym’s itinerary. “It’s just show up, go where you need to be and get to work. That’s something I like and that I previously didn’t have. It’s just easier going to a bigger place with more training partners, diverse looks and different styles and showing up to work.”
Cleveland is looking forward to the match-up, which will feature two high-level strikers. However, he’s not concerned about Yusupov’s undefeated record. Rather, he thinks that will work in his own favor.
“It puts more pressure on him when you’re an undefeated fighter,” he said. “It puts more pressure on your shoulders to keep that number flowing. He will get his first loss next week and I’ll be the person to do it. It’s just icing on the cake.”
In addition to Cleveland and the Russian prospect, PFL’s light heavyweight roster also holds UFC veterans like Vinny Magalhaes, Sean O’Connell and Ronny Markes, as well as former Bellator middleweight champion Brandon Halsey. Cleveland agrees that he’s the dark horse of the loaded division.
“With all the big names in my division, it’s only fit for a guy of my caliber to be the dark horse,” he said. “I’m not nervous about any of these guys. With them looking at me as a dark horse, it’ll be their mistake.”
Money for his family wasn’t the only thing that brought Cleveland to the PFL; he’s also a big fan of the business model. Fighters have two regular season bouts and earn points based on their performance. A win nets them three, while a finish can tack on 1-3 more depending on the round. Then, eight of 12 men in each division reach a playoff elimination-style bracket based on the standings. At the end of the year, the last two competitors will fight for the $1 million.
“I think it’s awesome,” Cleveland said. “The league aspect of how they’re putting things together takes all the politics out of it. It’s go in there, perform, earn your points and move on, which is a cool way for it to be. You don’t have to do too much other than train for your opponent outside of the cage, which is how fighting should be. I look forward to it and I’m excited about it.”
Cleveland made it clear that it’s family first if he earns the big pay-day. But he does have a few other ways to spend some of it in mind.
“I do have a nice truck now,” he said. “I might just do some upgrades on that.”
Hunting, fishing and a family vacation are also on the list.