PFL 11 Finalists Show Off Skills at Open Workout

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On Saturday, the Professional Fighter’s League had their open workouts at The New Yorker Hotel in Manhattan. Fans and media got a glimpse of what the finalists in the first PFL tournament can bring to the cage. On Monday, December 31, the finals go down to see who walks away with $1 million in each weight division.

The final lineup for PFL 11 is as follows:

Ray Cooper III (Welterweight) vs. Magomed Magomedkerimov (WW)
Josh Copeland (Heavyweight) vs. Philipe Lins (HW)
Vinny Magalhaes (Light Heavyweight) vs. Sean O’Connell (LHW)
Kayla Harrison (Women’s Lightweight) vs. Moriel Charneski (WLW)
Rashid Magomedov (Lightweight) vs. Natan Schulte (LW)
Lance Palmer (Featherweight) vs. Steven Siler (FW)
Abus Magomedov (Middleweight) vs. Louis Taylor (MW)

Sean O’Connell

Light heavweight Sean O’Connell practives on the mits

How he Makes Comebacks During his Fights:

“Survival instinct. I’m not a great martial artist, but I’m a great fighter. In this game, if you can’t handle adversity, you’re not willing to fight back from being in a little bit of trouble, you’re not going to make it very far. Everyone in these championship fights has been in the situations I’ve put myself in… It’s probably going to happen again in the championship bout.”

On Opponent Vinny Magalhães:

It’s a daunting task obviously going up against somebody with his jiu-jitsu credentials. Obviously, you got to make it something besides a pure jiu-jitsu match. I’ve been training really hard with high-level grapplers for this fight, but you’re not going to in a few months time, you’re not going to catch up with a guy like Vinny on the ground… Thankfully we start on the feet.

He’s got to find a way to get me down. If he finds a way to get me down, he’s got to find a way to keep me down. Vinny the fighter has been impressive lately, but Vinny the fighter is not nearly as invincible as Vinny the jiu-jitsu practitioner… If it gets ugly for him, he’s probably going to try to take me to the ground one way or another… he’ll pull guard.

I hope people realize how crazy that is in a high-level mixed martial arts match for someone to be willing to flop guard. You have to be extremely confident in your bottom game to do that. And obviously Vinny is justifiably confident in his bottom game.”

Feelings on the Tournament Structure:

“I think it’s a great format. A little bit of a return to the old school origins of mixed martial arts. Probably a safer way to do it. I think they found a really, really nice balance in the PFL of keeping you active, giving you enough time to recover from injuries… It’s very fighter friendly it’s all based on your merit; your ability to win. It’s not a popularity contest.”

New Year’s Plans:

“I’ll be counting the zeroes on my million dollar check. And I’ll be eating a bunch of fat kid food. I’m talking street dogs. Probably get a couple of New York slices. I’ll go get a shake somewhere, probably two shakes. I’ll be weighing in at 205 tomorrow. By the time I leave New York, I’ll be 230.”

Vinny Magalhães

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu specialist Vinny Magalhaes looks to make quick work of opponent Sean O’Connell

On Opponent Sean O’Connell:

“I’m sure he’s working on his defense… I’m not a guy who’s limited to one submission. I’m able to fight off my back. I’m able to fight from top… As long as I’m in the clinch, I can pull somebody down into guard.

On Fighting at MSG:

“It’s just like any other fight… I could’ve been fighting down the street from my house… There’s no extra pressure. There’s also no extra excitement. To me it’s all about the fight.”

Ray Cooper III

Ray Cooper III started the tournament as an underdog, but now is the favorite to take home the welterweight $1 million prize money.

Coming This Far:

“It’s about pushing myself… fighting top guys. Competing against the best guys like Jake Shields.”

Being the Face of PFL:

“I welcome it. I love it… my fighting speaks for itself.”

On the PFL Format:

“We’re reinventing it, bringing the tournament style back. You got your season, post-season, and you got your championships. I think that’s how you present it. All this bullcrap about ‘he said, she said,’ you fight them in a tournament, you win, you move on. You get to the playoffs, you win, you move to the semi-finals. And you win the semi-finals, you get to the championship. That’s how you win championships.”

Going from Underdog to Favorite:

“I proved to everybody I’m one of the top guys in this weight. I’m here to stay.”

Moving Up in Weight:

“I’m going to probably move up to [185]. We’ll see. I’ll talk to PFL.”

New Year’s Plans:

“I want to go home. I don’t really like this place. I don’t like this weather. I’m used to sunny weather and going to the beach.”

Lance Palmer

Featherweight Lance Palmer rematches Steven Siler in the finals

On the Tournament Format:

“I feel that being more active more than anything else has helped. When you’re not active you get stagnant. In [World Series of Fighting] I would fight once or twice a year. Being able to fight four times, going on five within a six month period is good for my learning curve.”

Rematching Steven Siler:

“That wasn’t one of my best performances. Even though I almost finished him twice in that fight, it wasn’t one of my best performances. That was probably 80% of what I was last year. Coming in at 100% this year with the new skillset and new coaching and everything else I’ve had over the last year. It’s going to be a lot different Lance Palmer that you’re going to see too.

Everyone puts that emphasis on that he’s a different fighter than he was a year ago. But so am I. I’ve improved tenfold. Hopefully he can hang in there… He’s a dangerous fighter… I’m prepared for everything… He throws everything in there. Siler brings things to the table that most people don’t… whether it’s unpredictability or his ability to take shots to the chin and come back.”

Competing in a Different Weight Class:

“145 is my home. I feel comfortable here. The things I’m doing nutritionally and strength and conditioning wise to have my body composition where it is are perfect for 145. If I was at 135, I’d be a small 135er height wise. I’m a small 145er height wise. So 155 I’d be super small for height. I think 45 is my home. I don’t really have a reason to go up to 155 unless I gained a ton of mass which I don’t plan on doing.”

Josh Copeland

Heavyweight Josh Copeland looks to come away with the $1 million prize

Losing First PFL Match:

“Fighting is fighting. The best fighter doesn’t always win. For me, being able to fight Jack May, that turned out to be such a blessing. He’s become a very good friend. We keep in contact all the time… Fighting is not personal. I’m a competitor… Even after Jack May beat me, afterwards I gave him a big hug and told him how happy I am for him and his family.”

Celebrating New Year’s:

“I plan on just giving a lot of hugs. Maybe giving some piggyback rides and just enjoying the people.”

Kayla Harrison

Kayla Harrison leads an impromptu judo lesson at the open workouts.

Opponent Moriel Charneski:

“She’s a tough opponent. She’s never been finished. She has more experience than me. That just shows me that she’s tough. My goal is I want to win first round by TKO or submission. I want to be the first to put her away. I want to end the year with a bang.”

Growth as an MMA Fighter:

“Honestly, every day I feel like I get just a little better… In judo, by the end of my career I was so burnt… I couldn’t get any better… I work on striking every day whether it’s Muay Thai or it’s boxing.”

Being the Face of PFL:

“There’s a huge platform here. I can use it to share my book, I can use it share my foundation, I can use it to be a champion for women’s causes and breaking that gender gap; leave the world better than I found it. I feel like I was born to be a fighter.”

Fighting Cyborg:

“I’m not an idiot. I know Cyborg has a lot more experience than me. I know that she’s the best in the world right now. I know that if I were to go in today I would probably not be prepared. Make no mistake, I would fight her tomorrow if I had the opportunity just to see where I am at.

I am not afraid of a challenge. I am not afraid of a fight. I think that strategically I have what it takes to beat her. I just need to put all the pieces together. I don’t have a timeline for it, but I do know that if I want to be considered one of the greats she’s someone I’m going to have to face.”

Celebrating New Year’s:

“A bunch of my friends are here in town. My boyfriend is here. And after the fights, I’m going to my favorite bar in the city called Gold’s Bar. I just love gold. I can’t tell you why.”

PFL 11 airs live on NBCSN December 31 at 7 p.m. EST from the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden.

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Andrew has been a long time MMA and pro wrestling fan. When he isn't writing about MMA, he is usually training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, playing video games, or going bar hopping (he only drinks on days that end in "y"). He also co-hosts the RIZIN focused podcast "We are RIZIN" which you can listen to on Soundcloud & Stitcher.

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