The Professional Fighters League 2018 regular season kicked off last Thursday with a roaring success. The first card of the regular season featured seven finishes in 11 fights and drew over 4,800 fans to Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater.
The unique format features six weight classes of 12 fighters each. Each man will get two regular season fights to score points. A winner earns three points by default. However, a fighter who earns a stoppage can earn up to three more points depending on the round the finish comes. First-round finish: six total points, second-round: five, third-round: four.
The top-eight men in each weight class will move onto the playoffs that will take place after seven regular season events. Fighters will compete in their quarterfinal and semifinal bouts in the same night in a win-or-go-home scenario. Quarterfinal fights will be two rounds, while the semifinals will be three.
Whichever two fighters emerge victorious in the playoffs from each weight class will compete for the PFL championship at the end of the year. Each winner will earn $1 million.
Naturally, with such a young idea and format, there are still some lingering questions. PFL co-presidents Ray Sefo and Carlos Silva addressed the media after PFL 1 to discuss some questions curious minds may have about their promotion going forward.
How will injuries be handled during the regular season?
Sefo used Andre Harrison as a hypothetical example to explain this.
Sefo: “A replacement will come in but he won’t inherit his points. If Andre can’t fight his second fight, whoever the alternate is will take his place. And if the guy who took his place ends up scoring a knockout in the first round and gets six points, Andre’s out of the game.”
Silva: “So basically, you’ve got 12 guys who’ve started the regular season. If one of them tonight can’t compete in the second round, we would bring a 13th person in. They would only get one fight in the regular season. But if they got six points, that six points might be enough to be in the top-8. Because the pool would be just the top-8 out of 13.
How will the promotion aid its athletes who are nursing minor injuries and can’t compete on their next weight class-featured event?
Silva: “So what Ray and I would do is look at what the New York State Commission gives to all the fighters. We’ll understand when they would fight next based on their injuries and suspensions and help give them the time to recover.”
The featherweights and heavyweights who competed in New York on Thursday are slated to fight at PFL 4 at Nassau Coliseum. That kicks off the second half of the regular season. If you look at the schedule, you’ll notice the second half has four events as opposed to the first half’s three. Silva explains why.
Silva: “Ray and the team did that on purpose to give us the ability to push and pull based on things with the commission. If someone had a swollen hand and the commission says, ‘You can’t go for 30 days,’ we’ll look at all those. It gives us the ability to push and pull between those four events.”
It’s straight-forward enough to make initial match-ups, sure, but after fighters compete for the first time, there are guaranteed to be winners and losers. So…
When will match-ups be made available after each card?
The short answer, according to Sefo, is the Monday or Tuesday following each event. All events are scheduled for Thursdays. Silva elaborated.
Silva: “We put a league rule where Ray and the team will get together and on Tuesday after the fight, based on all the things we talked about, it’ll give us the time to get in the medical and commission suspensions based on injuries. And then Ray and the team will look at how to match up that second round of the regular season.”
How do the match-ups get made?
Sefo: “I match up the fights so that everybody comes out and we see what they’re made of.”
Do you try to match winners against winners or losers against losers?
Silva: “It’s a good question but I don’t think it’s as simple as that. The bottom line is no matter what happened to you [at PFL 1], you’ve still got to come back and try and win and possibly win in the first round and get your six points. We’ve talked about it and as much as you could look at the matchmaking and you could try and have this guy fight that guy to get him there. At the end of the day, you’ve got to win to advance. We’ll look at what the best matches are. Ray and the team always do that and I think [Thursday] you saw the results of that with 11 great fights.”
We should more about the strategy behind the second round match-making soon.
What happens when a fighter misses weight?
Shawn Jordan and Philipe Lins were set to clash on PFL 1, but the fight was called off when Jordan missed weight. Silva said the PFL is still examining how to address that specific situation before taking action, saying that the organization is still sorting out some other issues with that fight. But in general:
Silva: “In a normal situation that would be a walkover. That’s laid out in the rules and regs. For a walkover, you get your three points. We’re just trying to get the final details of all of those pieces so that we could clarify that.”
2019 and Beyond
There are plans for a second season of PFL. If the promotion continues the success it had with its first show, fans and media are already wondering what the future holds.
How will the second season of PFL look?
Silva: “Ray and the team are looking at whether we should add a 135 division or do we expand the division from 12 fighters to 16 fighters? Those are two different ways we could look at it. We could possibly start earlier in the season in ‘19 but we’re not quite there yet.”
Any plans for a women’s division?
Kayla Harrison is set to make her much anticipated MMA debut at the PFL’s second show in Chicago on June 21. It will be a one-off women’s showcase, as far as we know. So can fans of women’s MMA get excited for the second season of PFL? Perhaps.
Sefo: “There’s a list that I have of 16 women. So I’ve got to go through that list and choose who I think would be good for the season in 2019.”
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